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Friday, January 30

Next week's construction-related closures



I-10
  • Sunday-Friday, February 1-6. 8:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. nightly. Main lanes, both directions, between Huebner Road and UTSA Boulevard (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Sunday-Friday, February 1-6. 8:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. nightly. Frontage road, both directions between Loop 1604 and Huebner Road (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Monday-Friday, February 2-6. 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily. Frontage road, both directions, between Loop 1604 and Huebner Road (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Saturday-Monday, February 7-9. 4 a.m. until 5 a.m. continuous. Main lanes, both directions, at Ralph Fair Road (Leon Springs). All lanes will close while crews set bridge beams. Traffic will exit Ralph Fair Road and re-enter the highway.
I-35
  • Sunday-Friday, February 1-6. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Southbound main lanes between Rittiman Road and George Beach (northeast San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close while crews move barrier and pour concrete.
  • Sunday-Friday, February 1-6. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Northbound exit ramp to I-410 west (northeast San Antonio). The ramp will close while crews do road work. Traffic will travel along the frontage road to Randolph Boulevard, take a left, and use the next available entrance ramp.
  • Sunday-Friday, February 1-6. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Northbound main lanes between George Beach and Rittiman (northeast San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close while crews place barrier.
  • Monday-Friday, February 2-6. 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. daily. Southbound frontage road between Rittiman Road and Tejasco (northeast San Antonio). The left lane will close to provide a safe area for trucks entering and exiting the roadway.
I-410
  • Sunday-Friday, February 1-6. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Northbound main lanes between Binz-Engleman and Rittiman (northeast San Antonio). All lanes will close while crews move and reset barrier. Traffic will exit Space Center Drive and travel through the Rittiman Road intersection, then re-enter the northbound main lanes.
  • Monday-Friday, February 2-6. 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. daily. Southbound frontage road between Winnco and Binz-Engleman. The left lane will close for ditch cleaning and re-grading.
  • Monday-Friday, February 2-6. 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. daily. Northbound frontage road between Binz-Engleman and Space Center. The left lane will close for ditch cleaning and re-grading.
U.S. Hwy 281
  • Saturday-Sunday, January 31-February 1. 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Northbound frontage road between Nakoma Drive and Bitters Road (north-central San Antonio). The two left lanes will close while crews hang beams to form the northbound exit ramp to Bitters Road. This closure includes the Bitters Road exit ramp. Traffic will take the next available ramp and turn around to reach Bitters Road.
  • Monday-Tuesday, February 2-3. 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. South-to-north turnaround at Bitters Road (north-central San Antonio). The turnaround will close while electricians finish installing lighting.
Other roads
  • Sunday-Friday, February 1-6. 8:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. nightly. DeZavala Road, both directions, at I-10. Alternating lanes will close while crews strip the bridge overhang. Traffic at the intersections will be controlled by police officers.
  • Monday-Saturday, February 2-7. 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Medical Drive, both directions, between Ewing Halsell and Fairhaven (Medical Center). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Monday-Saturday, February 2-7. 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Fredericksburg Road, both directions, between Louis Pasteur and Data Point (Medical Center). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Saturday-Monday, February 7-9. 4 a.m. until 5 a.m. continuous. Ralph Fair Road between Old Fredericksburg Road and I-10 (Leon Springs). All lanes will close while crews set beams over I-10. Traffic will use Old Fredericksburg Road to reach its destination.
 All closures are pending weather.

Thursday, January 29

Parkway Progress

This is the year the Parkway will be complete.

All of it.

Take that in for a moment - this is a project that began, as far as planning efforts between city and county and state officials is concerned, in the early 1980s! And now, in this very year, the project will be complete.

The question is when.

The short answer: all segments will be opened and in use by mid-2015. Now, let's get on to the longer answer.

Segment 1: Wetmore to Jones-Maltsberger

This project has been delayed by some materials issues, primarily near the Starcrest Drive overpass. These issues have been identified - and the responsible parties discovered - and a plan is in place to move forward. The trick is finding a string of consecutive days (more than two or three) of warm and clear weather. Once we get that, the issues can be resolved and the contractor will begin this completion.

The eastbound lanes will open first - hopefully well before Fiesta, if all goes well - with the westbound lanes following about two weeks after. The delay on the westbound side will allow crews to complete a small segment of center concrete median barrier right about where the city's brush dump site. That barrier will take a full two weeks to construct, including concrete curing time. Once the median is finished, the westbound lanes can be opened.

There has been another complication arise, however: the copper wiring connecting the traffic lights and signals between Wetmore and Jones-Maltsberger has been stolen. Twice. In the last week.

Because of the thievery, Liberty Mutual and Texas Sterling Construction will keep the copper wiring away from the project until we're ready to open the parkway up. Until that point the lighting along the parkway has been shut off, and will remain that way until we're ready to finish. Drivers should be aware of the snuffed lights and be sure to follow best practices of safe driving and keep their headlights on while driving.

Segment 2: Jones-Maltsberger to West Avenue

One of the more frequent questions about the Parkway sent to us is about the timing of the stretch between West Avenue and Jones-Maltsberger. Many are simply wondering whether the segment between West Avenue and U.S. Highway 281 - which, admittedly, is nearly complete - will open before the overpass at U.S. 281 will.

In a word: no.

Until the project is complete - including the overpass at U.S. 281 - the Parkway is the responsibility (and legal liability) of the contractor. They don't want to take any unnecessary chances. That, and they've got a slew of small things - stuff most folks don't notice right away - left to finish. Stuff like concrete work (we call it rip rap) and connecting drain inlets. We've still got plenty of work on the overpass at West Avenue to finish. The signs along the roadway aren't ready to be installed yet, either (though the overhead sign bridges are mostly constructed at this point). All that must happen before we can open things up.

Be assured the erection of the signs will be one of the very last things to happen. Signs that just sit there are easy targets for "urban artists" to tag; sometimes the damage a $5 can of spraypaint can cause would cost the contractor $5,000 to fix. Until we're about ready to open for traffic, those signs won't be put up.

What's more, we want to have the work along U.S. 281 finished to handle the additional traffic from the Parkway. Williams Brothers is working on some drainage improvements on the northbound side, near Bitters Road, that will open up work along that frontage roads.

With the new, permanent, southbound entrance ramp from Bitters Road now built and the old ramp vacated, crews are working to build the new exit ramp that will serve traffic headed to the Parkway and to Nakoma Drive. The new exit will allow traffic to skip the intersection at Bitters Road. Traffic coming from the Parkway, headed to southbound U.S. 281, will need to pass through Nakoma Drive and use the next available ramp - which has already been rebuilt and upgraded.

Of course, we also have the turnarounds at Nakoma to finish. A date for hanging those beams has not yet been set - that date would be one of the last (if not the last) major closure of U.S. 281 associated with the project. Crews are also working on the braided ramp that will carry northbound traffic exiting to Bitters Road over traffic from Nakoma and Wurzbach Parkway headed to the northbound main lanes. The beams forming the exit ramp to Bitters should be hung by the end of this week.

Some other items still needing to finish up:
  • Concrete barriers - "railing" - on the overpasses at U.S. 281 need to be formed and poured
  • The entrance and exit ramps from the Parkway onto and off of U.S. 281 are still only about halfway to two-thirds complete
  • Electric wires need to be pulled through the project and all illumination poles connected and installed
  • The northbound exit to Wurzbach Parkway needs completed and tied in, shutting down the current Bitters Road exit
  • A ton of "finish work" between U.S. 281 and Jones-Maltsberger
  • About a 100-yard concrete stretch of the new Salado Creek Greenway trail just east of U.S. 281 needs formed and poured
With that work in mind, here are a few closures through the weekend to be mindful of:
  • Tonight, 9 p.m. until midnight, southbound frontage road between Bitters Road and Nakoma, full closure to remove overhang brackets from the overpass
  • Friday morning, 12:01 a.m. until 5 a.m., southbound main lanes between Bitters Road and Nakoma, two alternating lanes will close to remove overhang brackets from the overpass
  • Friday night, 9 p.m. until midnight, northbound frontage road between Nakoma and Bitters Road, two alternating lanes will close to remove overhang brackets from the overpass
  • Saturday morning, 12:01 a.m. until 5 a.m., northbound main lanes between Nakoma and Bitters Road, two alternating lanes will close to remove overhang brackets from the overpass
At the outset, it looks like a lot of work yet to finish, and it is. But we are actually ahead of schedule on the project, and we have every confidence traffic will be driving on the Parkway this summer. The contractor actually has until late 2015 to finish work (the contract runs out of time somewhere in November, at last review), but the reality is we'll likely be opening it up before school starts up in August.

Fingers crossed, we could be opening it up well before that.

Friday, January 23

Next week's construction-related closures

I-10
  • Saturday, January 24. 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Westbound main lanes between Roland and Gevers (east San Antonio). The right lane will close while crews move barrier and realign the Roland Street entrance ramp.
  • Sunday-Friday, January 25-30. 8:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. nightly. Main lanes, both directions, between Huebner Road and UTSA Boulevard (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Sunday-Friday, January 25-30. 8:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. nightly. Frontage road, both directions between Loop 1604 and Huebner Road (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Monday-Friday, January 26-30. 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily. Frontage road, both directions, between Loop 1604 and Huebner Road (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Saturday-Monday, February 7-9. 5 a.m. until 5 a.m. continuous. Main lanes, both directions, at Ralph Fair Road (Leon Springs). All lanes will close while crews set bridge beams. Traffic will exit Ralph Fair Road and re-enter the highway.
I-35
  • Sunday-Friday, January 25-30. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Southbound main lanes between Rittiman Road and George Beach (northeast San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close while crews move barrier and pour concrete.
  • Sunday-Friday, January 25-30. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Northbound exit ramp to I-410 west (northeast San Antonio). The ramp will close while crews do road work. Traffic will travel along the frontage road to Randolph Boulevard, take a left, and use the next available entrance ramp.
  • Sunday-Friday, January 25-30. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Northbound main lanes between George Beach and Rittiman (northeast San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close while crews place barrier.
  • Monday-Friday, January 26-30. 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. daily. Southbound frontage road between Rittiman Road and Tejasco (northeast San Antonio). The left lane will close to provide a safe area for trucks entering and exiting the roadway.
I-410
  • Sunday-Friday, January 25-30. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Northbound main lanes between Binz-Engleman and Rittiman (northeast San Antonio). All lanes will close while crews move and reset barrier. Traffic will exit Space Center Drive and travel through the Rittiman Road intersection, then re-enter the northbound main lanes.
U.S. 281
  • Monday-Tuesday, January 26-27. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Southbound main lanes between Winding Way and Bitters Road (north-central San Antonio). The three left lanes will close while crews work on the digital message board system.
Loop 1604
  • Tuesday-Thursday, January 27-28. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Northbound main lanes between Shaenfield and New Guilbeau roads (northwest San Antonio). The right lane will close while crews place bridge beams for the new frontage road bridge over Helotes Creek.
  • Thursday-Saturday, January 29-31. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Southbound main lanes between New Guilbeau and Shaenfield roads (northwest San Antonio). The right lane will close while crews place beams for the new frontage road bridge over Helotes Creek.
Other Roads
  • Saturday, January 24. 7 a.m. until 3 a.m. Fredericksburg Road, both directions, between Louis Pasteur and Data Point (Medical Center). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Tuesday, January 27. 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Eastbound state Highway 46 at Business 87 (Boerne). The right lane will close while crews work on the concrete curb.
  • Wednesday-Friday, January 28-30. 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. FM 306, both directions, between Common Street and Goodwin Road (New Braunfels). Traffic will be reduced to a single lane, controlled by flaggers, while crews set beams on the future westbound overpass near Goodwin Road. This closure should only impact traffic Wednesday, but work in the area will continue through the week.
  • Monday-Saturday, January 26-31. 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Medical Drive, both directions, between Ewing Halsell and Fairhaven (Medical Center). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Monday-Saturday, January 26-31. 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Fredericksburg Road, both directions, between Louis Pasteur and Data Point (Medical Center). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Saturday-Thursday, January 24-29. 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Westbound Bitters Road at U.S. 281 (north-central San Antonio). All lanes will close while crews install underpass lighting. Traffic will turn right onto the northbound frontage road and turn around at Winding Way, then return to Bitters Road.
  • Saturday-Monday, February 7-9. 5 a.m. until 5 a.m. continuous. Ralph Fair Road between Old Fredericksburg Road and I-10. All lanes will close while crews set beams over I-10. Traffic will use Old Fredericksburg Road to reach its destination.
All closures are pending weather.

Friday, January 16

Next week's construction-related closures


I-10
  • Sunday-Friday, January 18-23. 8:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. nightly. Main lanes, each direction, between Huebner Road and UTSA Boulevard (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Sunday-Friday, January 18-23. 8:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. nightly. Frontage road, both directions between Loop 1604 and Huebner Road (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Monday-Friday, January 19-23. 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily. Frontage road, both directions, between Loop 1604 and Huebner Road (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
I-35
  • Sunday-Friday, January 18-23. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Southbound turnaround at Eisenhauer Road (northeast San Antonio). The turnaround will close while crews demo the retaining wall.
  • Sunday-Friday, January 18-23. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Southbound main lanes between Rittiman Road and George Beach (northeast San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close while crews move barrier and pour concrete.
  • Sunday-Friday, January 18-23. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Northbound exit ramp to I-410 west (northeast San Antonio). The ramp will close while crews do road work. Traffic will travel along the frontage road to Randolph Boulevard, take a left, and use the next available entrance ramp.
  • Sunday-Friday, January 18-23. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Northbound main lanes between George Beach and Rittiman (northeast San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close while crews place barrier.
  • Sunday-Friday, January 18-23. 9 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. nightly. Main lanes, both directions, between FM 3009 and Solms Road (Schertz-New Braunfels). Alternating lanes will close while crews mill out pavement rumble strips along the shoulders.
  • Monday-Tuesday, January 19-20. 8 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. Southbound main lanes between Conrads/Kohlenberg and FM 306 (New Braunfels). The right lane will close while crews set barrier and mark the pavement. This closure includes the exit to FM 306. Traffic will take the next exit and turn around.
  • Monday-Friday, January 19-23. 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. daily. Southbound frontage road between Rittiman Road and Tejasco (northeast San Antonio). The left lane will close to provide a safe area for trucks entering and exiting the roadway.
I-410
  • Sunday-Friday, January 18-23. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Northbound main lanes between Binz-Engleman and Rittiman. All lanes will close while crews move and reset barrier. Traffic will exit Space Center Drive and travel through the Rittiman Road intersection, then re-enter the northbound main lanes.
U.S. Hwy 281
  • Monday-Tuesday, January 19-20. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Northbound main lanes between Nakoma Drive and Bitters Road (north-central San Antonio). The two right lanes will close while crews unload steel.
Loop 1604
  • Tuesday-Thursday, January 20-22. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Northbound main lanes between Shaenfield and New Guilbeau roads (northwest San Antonio). The right lane will close while crews place bridge beams for the new frontage road bridge over Helotes Creek.
  • Thursday-Saturday, January 22-24. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Southbound main lanes between New Guilbeau and Shaenfield roads (northwest San Antonio). The right lane will close while crews place beams for the new frontage road bridge over Helotes Creek.
Other roads
  • Monday-Saturday, January 19-24. 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Medical Drive, both directions, between Ewing Halsell and Fairhaven (Medical Center). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Monday-Saturday, January 19-24. 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Fredericksburg Road, both directions, between Louis Pasteur and Data Point. Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Tuesday-Wednesday, January 20-21. 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. Eastbound Bitters Road at U.S. 281 (north-central San Antonio). All lanes will close while crews install underpass lighting. Traffic will turn right onto the southbound frontage road and turn around at Nakoma, then return to Bitters Road.
  • Wednesday-Thursday, January 21-22. 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. Fredericksburg Road, both directions, between Louis Pasteur and Data Point (Medical Center). Alternating lanes will close while crews work on the new bridge.
All closures are pending weather.

Thursday, January 15

The next (planned) big closure at Ralph Fair Road

Sundt Construction has announced their next planned closure of all lanes of I-10 at Ralph Fair Road as the weekend of February 6-9.

Specific times will be released closer to the closure. In general terms, crews will begin closing lanes of I-10 late Friday night and will have all lanes reopened in time for the Monday morning commute. Sundt crews are optimistic they'll have lanes reopened by Sunday.

This closure is the fourth such closure of a planned seven over the course of eight months. However, with project items accelerated across the project, this will be the final major weekend closure of all I-10 lanes.

Crews will use this final major closure to hang the remaining bridge support beams - the longest concrete beams on TxDOT roads state-wide (TX 64's, for those who want to know) - to form the remainder of the bridge. Overnight closures will be employed to set deck panels and pour concrete over the ensuing months. The work to hang the beams, however, cannot begin until daylight hours Saturday and will occupy all of Saturday (and, perhaps, part of Sunday) to accomplish.

The last closure for beam-hanging saw just nine beams hung. This time we'll be hanging nearly twice that many - 17 - to make up the remainder of the bridge. The nine-beam operation took roughly five hours; this could take nearly triple the time because the weather is colder and more wet than it was back in September.

As with the other closures, traffic from the main lanes will exit Ralph Fair Road and pass through the intersection to re-enter the main lanes. Ralph Fair Road will be closed across the bridge and at Old Fredericksburg Road to allow trucks to stage the beams and promote traffic flow on the frontage roads. Local traffic will use Old Fredericksburg Road and Aue Road to reach its destination.

Officers will be stationed strategically throughout the closure areas to ensure traffic flows well through the weekend.

Wednesday, January 14

Wurzbach Parkway progress

Texas Sterling Construction has been given marching orders to repair some materials issues that have cropped up around Starcrest Drive and should have the eastern portion of Wurzbach Parkway opened up by the end of the school year, if all goes well.

Opening the roadway will actually be done in phases, with eastbound lanes opened first. Westbound lanes will open once crews finish building a segment of concrete barrier at the city's brush dump site between Jones-Maltsberger and Starcrest Drive. Once that barrier is finished - a process that should take less than a month - we'll be ready to open the eastbound side.

The fix for the materials issues is a simple one - we'll be pushing through the area with seal coating, hitting the eastbound side first. Once the seal coats are finished and we have the roadway striped (or re-striped) appropriately, we'll open up that one direction of roadway.

When crews begin, the seal coat work shouldn't take more than a few days. That work is, of course, weather dependent. We can't do seal coats or highway striping during wet or abnormally cold weather, so some of this work may not begin for another few weeks. With the seal coat finished and the road ready for traffic on the eastbound lanes of Wurzbach Parkway between Jones-Maltsberger and Wetmore, Texas Sterling will be able to work on that small section (less than 100 feet) of concrete median barrier near the brush site.

This will mean a new, permanent, route for traffic headed to the brush site, by the way. Those looking to be rid of yard waste and other tree branches or shrubs will need to use Wurzbach Parkway and approach from Jones-Maltsberger. Those coming from the eastern portion of the city will follow Starcrest to Jones-Maltsberger, then approach the dump site from the parkway. Trucks leaving the dump site will be able to head west via Starcrest. Once the full parkway is opened, turnarounds at Starcrest Drive and Jones-Maltsberger will help traffic navigate appropriately.

Constructing the barrier includes placing the reinforcing steel bars, setting the concrete forms and actually pouring concrete - then letting the concrete cure. If everything moves at an optimal pace, that could be finished in as little as two weeks. During that time Texas Sterling should be able to finish the seal coat operations to have the eastbound side ready for traffic.

All told, we could be looking at having the parkway opened to traffic any time between April and June. That will leave the final segment, spanning between West Avenue and Jones-Maltsberger, to be opened late this summer.

Tuesday, January 13

I-10 Huebner; on pace to wrap up this year

The most important piece of information on the I-10 Huebner project is that Webber Construction is on pace to have the job finished by the middle of this year.

The work will add at least one lane in each direction to I-10 between Loop 1604 and Huebner Road, meaning I-10 will have at least four lanes in each direction between Loop 1604 and downtown San Antonio. A few exit and entrance ramps - mostly on the westbound side - have been adjusted and the bridge over DeZavala Road is being widened, raised and lengthened.

The work over DeZavala Road has traffic on the main lanes squeezed and shifted to allow for a safe work area for the widening of the bridge at that location, and has the westbound exit to UTSA Boulevard closed. The turnarounds at DeZavala Road have been closed more than six months to accommodate the work. These closures can be lifted and traffic be restored by April if Webber is able to keep up their pace and weather complies. That will leave the east-to-west turnaround at UTSA Boulevard as the last major work item remaining to be finished before we can resurface the road and stripe in all the new lanes. Since the bridge beams there have already been set, this also means once we have traffic restored over DeZavala our major closures for this project should be finished.

Through the rest of this month, Webber's concentration is on the westbound main lanes at DeZavala - that includes laying asphalt in the area. By the end of the month Webber should start laying asphalt at the turnarounds at DeZavala as a step toward getting those opened early. Project staff hopes opening the turnarounds early will help relieve much of the traffic pressure along the corridor and provide an incremental phase of relief for people.

As for the rest of the job, Webber's crews will be working on retaining walls while their subcontractors work on laying asphalt, finishing electrical components and putting up highway signs. This work will mostly take place during the daytime, with a few overnight closures - alternating lanes as needed, at the most - to allow for accelerated work. Work on the DeZavala bridge will maintain its around-the-clock pace.

The push for daytime and weekend work is largely due to the low temperatures we've experienced in recent weeks. Cold temperatures have slowed asphalt work and anything associated with it. The warmer temperatures, slight as the difference may be, during the day allows crews to do the necessary work. Our goal - and that of our contractor - is to get this project complete and delivered to area drivers as quickly as possible, and we are confident a push for more work during the day and during weekends will help expedite that process.

Monday, January 12

Why brine solution?

Though this blog is dedicated to updates on active construction projects, periodically we are asked some pretty good questions that deserve more of a response than 140 characters will afford.

Over the weekend's weather event, we were asked why we don't use salt to eliminate and protect against ice, as transportation departments in northern states use. Some of those asking suggest we might be able to avoid closing the highway or highway interchanges if we were to use salt. Those asking hail from northern states and have seen ice and snow events much worse than what we encountered over the weekend, and the claim is that those events up north don't shut down the highways like our events do.

The truth is, even northern states are starting to switch over to saltwater brine. According to one report, salt chat only works on ice that's already been formed and only when temperatures remain above 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The New York State Department of Transportation has opted to switch to brine solutions as a proactive measure, citing brine as more effective than salt chat.

Brine is an anti-icing saltwater solution with a salt concentration of about 23 percent. At that concentration, the freezing temperature of water sinks to about zero degrees Fahrenheit. Brine is applied at rates adjusted for anticipated weather conditions ranting between 30 and 60 gallons per lane mile.

The brine helps create a barrier between the ice and the roadway, stopping ice from bonding to the road or, in the case of south Texas, from forming in the the first place. This proactive approach is among the most cost-effective (and environmentally safe) practices in winter road maintenance.

Just how cost-effective is saltwater brine? Even in 1995, the Iowa DOT produced a document describing the cost savings of using saltwater brine in tandem with salt chat, observing that saltwater brine isn't effective when snow and ice build up over a period of time - not an issue in south Texas.

Perhaps most interestingly, the Iowa report shows a cost breakdown of roughly 5 cents per gallon of brine and about $30 per ton of salt chat. Using just one or just the other, that means the same lane mile would run roughly $3 either way; no real financial gain. For Iowa, though, the use of saltwater brine reduced the need for salt chat by some 25 percent (the brine prevents salt chunks from bouncing off the roadway, being wasted). The result is a cost-per-mile of roughly $2.25 using a combination of brine and salt.


But those numbers are old - 1995 was a long time ago (20 years!), and salt chat prices are dramatically on the rise. A Michigan report from November tells of the cost of salt rising by more than 40 percent this year, landing at $65.81 per ton (average). Other states are reporting costs in excess of $100 per ton. That means your average lane-mile of roadway would run between $6.60 and $12 to treat with salt alone. The brine solution for the same stretch? About $4 (about 6 cents per gallon). None of that includes the delivery fees, of course, driving the price on all items upward.

There are additional costs to consider as well. For starters, salt chat would need to be stored somewhere, and those storage places would need to be climate controlled to a degree (salt dissolves in warm water that would come in south Texas rain storms). What's more, these storage areas would need to be built in the area, where they're not currently existing. Once built, there are maintenance costs to consider.

The box spreaders we would need for salt chat are indeed in our inventory, but to make the most out of our salt we would likely need something other than what we now have. There are more efficient spreaders in the industry that claim to reduce wasted salt (again, bouncing off the roadway or scattering away from the travel lanes), but those machines come at a hefty price added price - one we couldn't afford for equipment that may well sit, unused, some 48 weeks of the year.

For brine, we actually use the same spray trucks crews use during the summer to spread herbicide and don't require additional attachments for more efficient spreading. TxDOT is considering the purchase of special equipment that would allow the brine to be made on-site, but that equipment is much less expensive than the spreader boxes needed for the salt chat. The brine-making tanks would reduce the price of brine by more than 95 percent. Making the brine on-site would also completely eliminate the need for long-term storage.

Meanwhile, TxDOT continues to use other means of protecting prepared drivers from the perils of winter driving. We do use rock chat on select areas prone to black ice (particularly overpasses or bridges in the hill country) where low traffic volumes mean less friction on the roadway surface and lower road surface temperatures. We use magnesium chloride where deemed appropriate. In northern portions of the state, where snow or ice buildup is indeed possible, we do use salt and sand mixes.

But in the San Antonio area, we're looking for the most cost-effective way to treat a roadway for a light icing. Saltwater brine seems to fit that bill and is emerging as a frontrunner in solutions for this issue. Will it guarantee our roads remain open all year long? No - we did close a number of roadway segments Saturday morning. But those closures were as precautionary as they were temporary, and we had every road lane available for use within about six hours.

Not too bad for a group that can count on one hand the number of ice events we see during a year.

Friday, January 9

I-10
  • Sunday-Friday, January 11-16. 8:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. nightly. Main lanes, each direction, between Huebner Road and UTSA Boulevard (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Sunday-Friday, January 11-16. 8:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. nightly. Frontage road, both directions between Loop 1604 and Huebner Road (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Monday-Friday, January 12-15. 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily. Frontage road, both directions, between Loop 1604 and Huebner Road (northwest San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
I-35
  • Sunday, January 11. 5 a.m. until noon. Northbound frontage road between Rittiman and Eisenhauer roads (northeast San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close while crews place barrier. This closure includes the northbound exit to Eisenhauer Road. Traffic will use the next available ramp and turn around.
  • Sunday-Wednesday, January 11-14. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Southbound main lanes between Randolph Boulevard and Fratt Road (northeast San Antonio). The left lane will close while crews move barrier and pour concrete.
  • Sunday-Friday, January 11-16. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Northbound main lanes between George Beach and Eisenhauer (northeast San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close while crews place barrier.
  • Monday-Friday, January 12-16. 9 p.m. until 5:30 a.m. nightly. Main lanes, both directions, between FM 3009 and Solms Road (Schertz-New Braunfels). Alternating lanes will close while crews mill out pavement rumble strips along the shoulders.
I-410
  • Sunday-Monday, January 11-12. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Northbound main lanes between Binz-Engleman and Rittiman. All lanes will close while crews move and reset barrier. Traffic will exit Space Center Drive and travel through the Rittiman Road intersection, then re-enter the northbound main lanes of I-35.
  • Sunday-Wednesday, January 11-14. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Eastbound exit to southbound I-35 (northeast San Antonio). The exit will close while crews move barrier and pour concrete. Traffic will use northbound I-35, exit Weidner, and turn around.
U.S. Hwy 281
  • Monday-Tuesday, January 12-13. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Northbound frontage road between Nakoma Drive and Bitters Road (north-central San Antonio). All lanes will close while crews pour the bridge deck for the Wurzbach Parkway overpass. Traffic will use Nakoma, Jones-Maltsberger and Bitters Road to travel north. Business Access will be available along Heimer Drive and Maltsberger Lane.
  • Tuesday-Thursday, January 13-15. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. North-to-south turnaround at Bitters Road (north-central San Antonio). The turnaround will close while crews work on light fixtures. Traffic will use the signals at the intersection.
  • Wednesday-Thursday, January 14-15. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Southbound main lanes between Bitters Road and Nakoma (north-central San Antonio). The two right lanes will close while crews remove barrier and work on a new (permanent) entrance ramp. This closure includes the entrance ramp from Bitters Road. Traffic will continue through the Nakoma Drive intersection and enter the highway.
Other roads
  • Monday, January 12. 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Wurzbach Parkway, both directions, between Starcrest Drive and Wetmore (north-central San Antonio). The right lane and the shoulder will close while crews level the topsoil away from the travel lanes.
  • Tuesday, January 13. 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Eastbound Wurzbach Parkway between Starcrest Drive and Northeast Entrance Road (north-central San Antonio). Alternating lanes will close while crews remove soil retention blankets away from the travel lanes.
  • Monday-Saturday, January 12-17. 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Medical Drive, both directions, between Ewing Halsell and Fairhaven (Medical Center). Alternating lanes will close for road work.
  • Monday-Saturday, January 12-17. 7 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Fredericksburg Road, both directions, between Louis Pasteur and Data Point. Alternating lanes will close for road work.
All closures are pending weather.

Tuesday, January 6

Wurzbach Parkway progress

The story of Wurzbach Parkway is summed up in two words: bridge decks. Two more words (if you want a longer story): ramp improvements.

Tonight Williams Brothers will close the southbound main lanes of U.S. Hwy 281 between Bitters Road and Nakoma Drive at 9 p.m. to allow bridge crews to pour concrete on the Wurzbach Parkway overpass bridge. The northbound main lanes will close in the same area around 10 p.m. All lanes will reopen once the concrete dries, which will be well in time for tomorrow's morning commute.

While the closure is in place, traffic will exit (on the southbound side) Bitters Road and re-enter the highway after going through Nakoma Drive. On the northbound side, traffic will exit Bitters Road and re-enter before reaching Bitters.

This is the last major pour over the main lanes of U.S. 281 to form the Wurzbach overpass. We still need to pour concrete for some of the overpass spanning over the frontage roads, but this will be the final major closure of the main lanes on U.S. 281 for the Wurzbach overpass. Closures to facilitate the construction of turnarounds at Nakoma should come at the end of this month or early February.

Later this week we'll have one of the subcontractors start working on some drain features near Heimer Drive along the northbound frontage road. This work may require the temporary closure of Heimer Drive at the frontage road, pushing traffic from Heimer onto Maltsberger Lane or onto Bitters Road.

Saturday we'll have the right lanes of southbound U.S. 281 closed (along with the southbound entrance from Bitters Road) to do some asphalt work and open the new - permanent - southbound entrance ramp from Bitters Road. With that entrance ramp open, Williams Brothers will begin working on the new southbound exit for Wurzbach and for Nakoma.

The work on the southbound ramps highlights other upcoming work to adjust ramps along U.S. 281 between Nakoma and Bitters. The ramps on the northbound side should be ready and built somewhere around spring break. The overall project is on schedule for completion the middle of this year.

Loop 1604 expansion continues ... expanding

About eight months ago Williams Brothers Constructin began designing and building an expansion of Loop 1604 between Bandera and Culebra roads, and work has progressed well. Project supervisors affirm we are well on our pace to finish work by the end of 2016.

Road builders have finished the foundation layers of frontage road between Shaenfield and Culebra roads, with work on the northbound side extending nearly to New Guilbeau already. On the southbound side, crews are now working to construct or lay out the new frontage road between New Guilbeau and Shaenfield. Where roadway didn't previously exist - Leslie Road had run parallel in the same footprint we're building the southbound frontage road - road builders are excavating and building the foundation layers of the road.

Pavers have already placed the base layers of asphalt on the northbound side up to the Culebra Creek bridge. Paving crews are scheduled to begin laying asphalt on the southbound side between Shaenfield and Culebra in two weeks, which will allow crews to switch traffic over to the new road surface and reconstruct the outside, or driveway side, lane of the frontage road. That should happen aroud the end of the month, beginning work on the driveway side. Crews will work to keep open all driveways and other access points during this phase.

Construction of the frontage roads is key to the progress of the project. Once frontage roads and the new exit and entrance ramps are ready to hold traffic, Williams Brothers will be able to move traffic over and begin work on the actual overpasses at Shaenfield, New Guilbeau and Braun roads. That move is scheduled to take place aroud the end of the school year.

When traffic is shifted to the frontage roads, drivers will see no major change in how they drive through the area in terms of configuration ... however, folks should be aware the speed limit will drop to 45 miles per hour, as they'll be driving on the frontage road. Again, that is set to take place around the end of the school year.

As for the direct connectors and overpass at Hwy 151, bridge crews will begin constructing foundations for support structures in February, with major work underway by the beginning of March. Williams Brothers anticipates the new intersection to be built and in use by mid-2017.

New projects upcoming

In December the Texas Transportation Commission approved contract awards for six projects in the San Antonio District, totaling $13.5 million in work spread across five counties.

Atascosa County

On U.S. Hwy 281 between I-37 and FM 1099, at Campbellton, Hunter Industries will work to restore the roadway and improve some of the intersections. The $1.5 million restoration work will address some of the deterioration due to recent heavy truck traffic, while the intersection improvements will improve safety at key intersections.

The intersections to be improved are at FM 140, FM 791 and FM 1099.

Bexar County

On San Pedro Road between I-410 and U.S. 281, in north-central San Antonio, Clark Construction will repair and replace the roadway base. The $1 million project will mostly be done at night in order to avoid impacting daytime traffic.

Frio County

On FM 1581 between FM 117 and Divot Road, south of Pearsall, Angel Brothers Enterprises will widen the road to add a continuous left-turn lane. The $1.9 million project also improves the intersection at Divot Road.

Uvalde County

On U.S. Hwy 90 between the Kinney County line and FM 481, west of Uvalde, Ace Asphalt will improve safety features along the roadway. The $1.4 million project will add inverted pavement rumble strips and flatten roadway side slopes.

On FM 117 between U.S. Hwy 83 and the Zavala County line, south of Uvalde, Hunter Industries will restore and rebuild the roadway. The $2.1 million project will address roadway deterioration issues along the 6.7-mile stretch brought by increased truck traffic.

Wilson County

On FM 541 between U.S. Hwy 181 and the Atascosa County line, southwest of Poth, Dean Word COmpany will rehabilitate and widen the existing roadway. The $5.6 million job will add shoulders to the roadway, enhancing safety along a corridor carrying heavy truck traffic.

Work on all projects will begin this spring.
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