Friday, February 13

Projects coming up

We have a lot of projects that are nearing completion - I-10 Huebner, both remaining segments of Wurzbach Parkway, Fred-Med and I-10 Ralph Fair Road should all be finished in the next six months or thereabouts - bringing significant relief to drivers along some of our key corridors.

But that doesn't mean we relax any time soon. Over the next year, we will see a string of projects begin that will address congestion and improve safety along corridors of significant growth now and in the future. Some of these projects have been programmed into the regional budget in advance; four projects are moving forward by virtue of voter-approved Prop 1.

Here's a quick run-down of what's coming up:

UTSA Boulevard

This is part of an $800 million proposal announced more than a year ago - once UTSA Boulevard is developed, it will be turned over to the city of San Antonio. For now, however, the segment between I-10 and Edward Ximines Drive - also known as Spur 53 - is a state-maintained road.

The $9 million project will expand the road to five lanes (two lanes each way plus a center left-turn lane), add a multi-use path better connecting the area to the Leon Creek Greenway, and adds shoulder room that will accommodate bikes. Work will begin once utilities have been properly moved; the latest estimates suggest actual work on the project could begin in 6-8 weeks.

Once work begins the project will last about a year and a half - expect a completed project late 2016.

Loop 1604 at Hwy 151

This project is moving forward as an option to the design-build expansion of Loop 1604 between Bandera and Culebra roads. Williams Brothers Construction is the contractor, and they expect to begin turning dirt in March. Overall completion is slated for the end of 2016.

This project has received more than its share of attention over the last few years; the current iteration - a $45 million effort to connect drivers on Loop 1604 directly to Hwy 151 - includes a direct connector ramp from southbound Loop 1604 to eastbound Hwy 151 and a few operational improvements. The main lanes of Hwy 151 will be brought over Loop 1604 to meet with Alamo Ranch Parkway, allowing traffic headed from westbound Hwy 151 to the Alamo Ranch area to do so without going through the Culebra Road intersection. 

Loop 1604, Culebra to Potranco

Part of the same $800 million package involving UTSA Boulevard, this will expand Loop 1604 to a four-lane expressway with continuous frontage roads to Potranco Road on the far west side of San Antonio.

The project will essentially continue what's already being done between Bandera and Culebra roads, adding non-tolled lanes with overpasses at a few locations. This project is still in the design phases, though it is slated to be finished and ready for bidders early summer. We could have contractors on board as early as July, which means construction will begin in the fall.

This project will take more than two years to complete and has a similar timeline to the expansion of Loop 1604 between Bandera and Culebra roads. That project started early 2014 and is set to wrap up late 2016.

FM 1101

This is a little north of most San Antonians' wheelhouse ... but it's a road that goes through three separate school zones in New Braunfels. This project focuses on the stretch between Hwy 46 and FM 306 on the northeast side of town.

The $7.6 million project is also waiting on utilities to be moved so it can begin, which will also happen this spring. Work will take somewhere around a year and a half once it starts. The finished product will hold the same single lane in each direction as currently exists, but it will add a center left-turn lane. Also included in the project are sidewalks and bike lanes - critical features to help school-goers travel safely along the growing corridor.

I-10 at Old Fred Road

Moving forward, this project will be dubbed (on this blog, at least) the "Old Fred Road" project. The $29.4 million project comes from the recent Proposition 1 vote and will construct a new overpass at Old Fredericksburg Road northwest of San Antonio. The finished project will see the main lanes of I-10 over a new crossover that connects Old Fredericksburg Road with the westbound side of the highway.

Additionally, the frontage roads between Ralph Fair Road and Fair Oaks Parkway will be converted to one-way. A public meeting is scheduled to allow folks in the area a face-to-face opportunity with engineers designing the project. That meeting will be Thursday, February 19 from 5 until 7 p.m. at the Spring Creek United Methodist Church.

We are scheduled to seek a contractor this summer; actual construction is likely to begin toward the end of the year.

Highway 151 at I-410

Of the four Prop 1 projects announced for our area this year, this project seems to be the least understood. The official description called for expanding I-410 by a lane in each direction, and this project will do that - at least between Hwy 151 and West Military Drive.

The project, which carries a price tag of about $75 million, will also add direct connector ramps from eastbound Hwy 151 to northbound I-410 and from southbound I-410 to westbound Hwy 151. These are strategically selected ramps, focusing on the heaviest traffic flows at this intersection.

Why just two ramps, though? Why not all eight? Highway interchanges are expensive, often reaching north of $250 million. That's right ... a quarter of a billion dollars. Folks at home may recall Prop 1 gave the entire state an added $1.7 billion ... and $250 million would be nearly double the San Antonio District's share of that money.

The quick way to explain what's happening is that we're building what we can afford. Folks at home can commiserate a bit - how often do we buy the slightly used Honda rather than splurge on the BMW off the lot? How often do we settle for that 32-inch TV when we really want the 78-incher curved-screen, ultra high-definition TV?

The two ramps we're building aren't anything to scoff at, to be sure - these will get that northwest corridor moving in ways it only dreams of today. But we are, ultimately, building what we can afford right now. It's road building on a budget.

The project will be let for bidding later this year; we expect actual work to begin, at the earliest, the end of 2015.

U.S. Highway 90

The stretch of U.S. Highway 90 between I-410 and Loop 1604 on the far west side of San Antonio just might be the last remaining stretch of expressway in San Antonio proper featuring a two-way frontage road, and we want to change that.

Thanks to Prop 1, we are moving forward with a plan that will convert the frontage roads to one-way - a safety measure that's been shown to reduce the fatal and injury crashes by as much as 57 percent on the frontage roads themselves and an astounding 85 percent at intersections - along the entire stretch. This two-for-one project (we're combining two projects into one, essentially) will also develop some improvements to the intersection at U.S. 90 and Loop 1604. Both projects round out the four listed as proposed for Prop. 1 funding.

The $26 million project is set to let for bidding in May, which means we should be underway late this fall. Overall project duration will be a year and a half.

U.S. 281 North Improvements

The expansion of U.S. 281 to an expressway north of Loop 1604 (and on to the Comal County line) has been in the works for about 20 years at this point, and has hit its fair share of rocks on the road to development.

Last year (that is, January 2014) TxDOT joined with Bexar County, the city of San Antonio and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority to announce a package of $800 million in projects over the next several years. Those projects include the UTSA expansion mentioned above, and it includes managed-lanes projects on I-10, U.S. 281 and a non-tolled expansion of Loop 1604.

The ARMA is taking the lead on this project and is managing communication for its development. The environmental impact study has recently wrapped up, and the ARMA is nearing readiness to move this project to construction phases. More information, including a project schematic, may be found on the ARMA Web page.