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Wednesday, January 29

FM 306 and other Comal County projects

FM 306

Work on the FM 306 expansion project, featuring two overpasses seperating road traffic from railroad traffic, began in March 2012 and is running at a pace that would allow the contractor to finish very early.

In fact, if everything works out well enough, the work could finish more than six months ahead of the project's more-than-two-year estimated schedule.

However, crews are running into occasional blocks. They're currently working to get underground AT&T lines out of the way between Lighthouse Drive and I-35. The contractor working with AT&T is trying to keep up with the overall TxDOT schedule, which is outpaced by Hunter Industries.

Another issue contributing to what some might call a delay - again, the project is running on pace to be finished significantly early - is a design issue regarding a detention pond near the Hunter Road railroad overpass. The work we are doing there impacts the way some of the water drains and flows, and the drain structures - like a detention pond there - are critical to minimizing our impacts.

Initially, the Hunter overpass was scheduled to be built first - that is, at the very outset of the project - to allow residents west of the overpass a clar and easy bypass of the railroad in emergency situations. As it stands, the route to I-35 is almost totally blocked for residents near the River Chase subdivision and other developments in that area when a train comes through. Building the western overpass would change that.

Relatively easy alternate routes exist for those seeking to get around the railroad crossing near Goodwin.

When the design issues arose on the western overpass, project supervisors determined to do work at other locations on the project. That's led to the near-completion of the overpass near Goodwin Lane and the quick work of the road expansion between Hunter Road and Common Street and between Goodwin and I-35.

Now that the design issues around the detention pond are resolved, though, work on the western overpass is moving quickly. The project superintendent hopes to be agle to set bridge support beams mid-February. That work will require the total closure of FM 306 at the site, but that closure will be overnight only. We'll be sure to let everyone know what's happening when that time comes.

Here's the big, overall vision for progress: We want to have traffic moving over both overpasses in time for the Easter holiday. That may yet prove difficult, but it's the aim we're working toward. In the meantime, expect a major traffic switch between I-35 and Common Street Thursday. That's January 30.

What we're doing is putting traffic onto the outside lanes, opening up the roadway that's been in use for planned work. We'll still have a single lane in each direction, those lanes will just be seperated by the active working area. This shouldn't impact the daily traffic much, but it will require drivers to be more aware of surroundings. In March we hope to have the median-area work finished and be able to open traffic up a bit more (or at least switch traffic to a more normal-feeling configuration).

Left turns at Hunter Road will remain illegal until the entire intersection is reconstructed - and that should mean late this summer. We'll do what we can to be sure signs are in place to let folks know to take Common Street to reach Historic Gruene.

U.S. 281

We're still working on a solution to the issue revolving around the Post Office in Spring Branch, which is holding up work at that location right now.

Again, while it's holding up work folks should know the contractor is on pace to finish the project in half the time projected by TxDOT. There are no actual delays on the project, just issues hampering the pace Hunter Industries is trying to keep.

Right now, the future northbound lanes have been graded out (meaning the dirt substructure for the road, but not the actual asphalt) to within a few yards of the south wall of the Post Office. On the north side, the road has actually been paved with base layers of asphalt. If the Post Office was removed, traffic would likely be using the new lanes in a few short weeks.

With that issue still being resolved, crews are focusing on a small area at the southern tip of the project. Last week a strip of asphalt tying the future southbound lanes of traffic into the existing lanes near Adobe Village retail center was put in place. This allowed the contractor to remove some of the barrier in the area, which opens some accessibility for the patrons of those businesses.

Work continues at full speed near Gass Ranch and on Coyote Ridge; project bosses are trying to have the road ready for use by the end of the summer, if everything works out favorably. The TxDOT-projected finish date is late 2015.

Seguin Avenue

With most of the detention pond on the east side of the underpass in place, work on the detention pond directly under the railroad overpass has begun. The drain system is being built in three phases, and this marks the second phase.

The biggest milestone on the project - that is, the biggest signal of progress - should be in place mid-February. That's the installation of the new railroad bridge, which will look much like the old bridge. Support structures are nearly finished, allowing the actual bridge to be set in place. The bridge is a single-span steel structure that's been prefabricated off-site.

When the new bridge is built and tied in for rail traffic, the shoo-fly detour will be taken down. Meanwhile, construction of the roadway below will continue marching forward.

To aid that march, last week crews closed the intersection of Seguin Avenue and Nacogdoches - sending traffic through the Faust Road intersection instead - to prepare the intersection to match elevations of the new roadway. What does that mean? It means with the widened road, we're softening the downhill ride through the underpass - which means we had to cut down some of the roadway at the Nacogdoches intersection.

We're still on pace to have the underpass opened up for use again this spring.