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Monday, June 23

Major closures on U.S. 281 this weekend

This is going to be the granddaddy - it's the biggest, most anticipated closure associated with the Wurzbach Parkway extension project.

The Parkway is being built on undeveloped land, so the closures to date have been pretty minor. For the most part, that is. But now we need to hang bridge support beams over U.S. Highway 281.

This weekend Williams Brothers Construction will close all of the southbound main lanes, northbound main lanes and northbound frontage road of U.S. 281 between Nakoma Drive and Bitters Road.

If you read that correctly, you'll note that only the southbound frontage road will be active.

Friday night, around midnight, bridge builders will shut down the northbound main lanes and frontage road - again, between Nakoma Drive and Bitters Road. The southbound main lanes will close 4 a.m. Saturday.  These closures will allow crews to use a special hydraulic crane to do the work in the unique working area.

Before that happens, the left lane of northbound Hwy. 281 will close from I-410 to Nakoma beginning Friday at 7 p.m. to provide a staging area for trucks loaded with the bridge support beams.

Everything will reopen Monday morning in time for the morning commute.

Now that you know what's happening, let's talk about navigating through what will be, no doubt, a very frustrating traffic mess.

Southbound US 281 main lanes

You'll need to exit Bitters Road, then go through the intersections at Bitters Road and at Nakoma drive - we'll have officers posted there - and reenter the highway to go about your business. Remember we only have one lane entering the highway after Nakoma, and backups will be pretty huge.

A better way: Try I-35, Blanco Road or Nacogdoches.

Southbound US 281 frontage road

No change for you in terms of route ... but you will be joined by some 100,000 cars moving through the area each day. Expect backups on feeder roads as a result, like Bitters Road and Interpark.

A better way (if going east toward U.S. 281): Try West Avenue to Wurzbach Parkway, then get on Blanco Road.

Northbound US 281 main lanes

Traffic will exit Nakoma Drive and follow the posted detour route. That route includes Nakoma Drive, Jones-Maltsberger and Bitters Road. These roads are all controlled by traffic signals, and the traffic volumes will be overwhelming.

A better way: Try Nacogdoches, Blanco Road or I-35.

Northbound US 281 frontage road

This is the closure that makes the main lane closure tricky. Remember: this corridor sees better than 100,000 cars each day. All those cars - and all those that would be on the frontage road - will be using the side streets. The frontage road will be closed, particularly at the point Wurzbach crosses (or will cross) US 281.

However, we understand businesses need to do business, and several businesses line the northbound frontage road in this closure area. Those headed to the car dealership or to Arion Parkway will be able to do so using West Coker Loop. Those trying to visit businesses a little further north will need to use Nakoma, Jones Maltsberger and Bitters to reach Heimer Road and Maltsberger Lane.

A better way: Nacogdoches or Blanco Road.

Eyes wide open

Our engineers are going into this closure with full awareness of the impact it will likely have across the city. We anticipate impacts on I-410, I-35, I-10 and Loop 1604 because of this closure. However, doing this closure once like this will allow us to get the work necessary done in one weekend rather than spread major closures along the corridor over several weeks (potentially delaying progress on the project, and making more than just one weekend rough for our neighbors).

We will need some closures (though not as major) of Hwy. 281 to do more bridge work as it comes. Those closures will be announced as needed.

As a reminder, heavy work is planned for I-10 at DeZavala this weekend - potentially slowing traffic significantly there as well. Note I-10 is not recommended as a viable alternate route to US 281 for the weekend.

The bright spot

If weather cooperates with Williams Brothers Construction, we could easily see work progress quickly and find ourselves reopening lanes much sooner than the above timelines allow. Though it's not much consolation, it's a bright ray of hope for those living in or around the area: we could well be done with this closure early. If so, be sure to thank the guys with Williams Brothers Construction.