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Thursday, January 30

I-35 SAMMC, I-35 Selma projects plugging along

The intent today was to post a video of the I-35 SAMMC project, showing the detour route on the northbound I-410 connector to northboung I-35 ... but the camera doesn't want to work, so that didn't happen. That also means there's no available up-to-date pictures of the project (nor are there any of the I-35 Selma project), so we'll have to stick with the good, old-fashioned art of writing....

I-35 Selma

Paving crews are working on specific locations on Loop 1604 (between Pat Booker Road and Lookout Road), working in the shoulders and generally leaving travel lanes alone. That's going to change Tuesday, Feb. 4, when crews repave the frontage road from about the IHOP restaurant to the Red Robin restaurant.

For that work the frontage road will close for the full day - project managers responsible for the paving are saying it will take a full 10-hour shift to accomplish - and traffic will be diverted onto the Loop 1604 entrance ramp. Drivers looking to get to stores at The Forum at Olympia Parkway may still enter the shopping center at the IHOP.

Meanwhile, the general contractor is keeping his focus on the exit and entrance ramps he's working on. This includes the northbound exit ramp to FM 1518, which is closed right now and targeted to be reopened in March. Traffic headed to FM 1518 has been using the Olympia Parkway exit and doesn't need to pass through traffic signals to reach its destination.

Other ramps impacted by work are the northbound exit to Olympia Parkway, which remains open while crews work in the shoulder area. One lane of the northbound I-35 frontage road is closed for this work, which is adding a lane to the exit ramp. The other ramp being worked on is the southbound entrance ramp from Evans Road. That entrance ramp is closed, but traffic is able to enter the southbound main lanes of I-35 before reaching Forum Parkway and without going through additional intersections.

Once these three ramps are finished, crews are expected to move to the remaining priorities on the project - including the south-to-north turnaround at FM 3009 and sidewalks. Meanwhile, concrete crews are staying busy building concrete traffic barrier at a handful of locations along the project.

I-35 SAMMC

The first thing to know about this project - and, really, the most important thing to know - is the posted speed limit is 55 miles per hour. TxDOT staff driving the area set cruise control at 55 MPH and watch cars blow by at rates of speed higher than 70 MPH.

Again: The posted speed limit from Randolph Boulevard to George Beach is 55 miles per hour. San Antonio Police Department and other law enforcement agencies are routinely patroling the area, and they will let you know the speed limit has dropped. That message may cost you some money; this message is free. Decide now which one you'd rather pay attention to....

That's not the only change to traffic in the area. The speed limit change is "old news" ... we announced that back in mid-November. More recently we've put in place a "detour" route on the northbound I-410 connector to northbound I-35.

The connector feels a lot more like a main lane, really, because it stays at ground level. It doesn't bridge over much of anything; it is, however, just a single lane. It always has been, in fact. In that respect, we haven't changed anything about what traffic experiences out there. We still have a single lane connecting northbound I-410 to northbound I-35.

However, we closed the entrance ramp near Greatfare Road. It's the ramp that captures traffic from Binz-Engelman and the industrial facilities in the area. The traffic load on the ramp is relatively minor - mostly truck traffic during off-peak hours - but the elimination of the ramp has, for now, made a huge difference in the efficiency of traffic flow. We'll call it addition by subtraction for the time being.

Beyond that, we've got excavators preparing to expand the southbound main lanes at Rittiman Road; we've got crews building up the support structures for the future connector from southbound I-35 onto southbound I-410; we've got crews clearing the way and building support structures for ramp improvements near Randolph Boulevard. At this point the work is moving on pace to finish the project as projected at the end of 2016.

For now, though, TxDOT staff on the project and the workers building the road have one united plea for drivers: Please slow down and drive more carefully.

This means putting away the cell phones and paying attention to what's happening. We've had a number of crashes in the area - almost all due to the speed of drunk or unattentive drivers - that could easily have become extremely tragic. In one case, a car was discovered crashed into some steel bars crews work with daily. Those steel bars were some 50-60 feet away from the roadway, which was a 45 MPH curved ramp. The driver would have had to be traveling at an extreme rate of speed or would have had to deliberately try to hit the rebar in order to accomplish what was done.

The scariest part of that? Had the crash not happened during the very early hours of morning - had the crash occurred during regular working hours - no fewer than two workers would have likely been hit by the car.

Please remember: these work zones are our office. We have the same desire everyone else holds to return to our families safely each day after work. Please help us accomplish that goal by slowing down and paying close attention. Don't tolerate drunk driving, and don't allow anyone to text while driving.
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