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Friday, March 6

Comal County round-up

Recent weather has pushed back some huge milestones across Comal County - particularly in and around New Braunfels - but big developments are still taking shape. The result is a flurry of activity inside a two-week window, set to start late next week.

Here's a run-down, in no particular order:

Lp 337 (Rueckle Road)

For two months folks have been using a finished product that expanded Lp 337 between I-35 and Altgelt Road, but barricades have remained blocking a portion of the overpass bridge. This has limited traffic from the northbound frontage road to a single left turn lane and traffic crossing the bridge over I-35 to a single lane.

The goal of the project, however, was to expand the bridge to allow for two through lanes plus a left turn lane for traffic coming from Rueckle Road and headed north (or west, depending on your perspective) on Lp 337. That was hampered by a slight elevation difference between what used to be the south-to-north turnaround bridge and the existing overpass bridge. The difference, which is only a matter of an inch or so, was noticed when the concrete barrier was demolished as part of the project requirements.

The specialized subcontractor for the work to correct the elevation difference, which happens to fall right in the middle of the wheelpath of one of the lanes, was scheduled to solve the issue this week. Cold and wet weather has pushed that back, and they are now expected to be working on the bridge by the start of next week.

Once work on the bridge begins we'll need about a week to have everything opened up. Call it a St. Patrick's Day gift.

FM 306

Hunter Industries continues to work toward  completing the expansion of the roadway and construction of overpasses at the UPRR crossings near Hunter Road and Goodwin Lane in time for summer. Right now that's exactly what will happen.

Crews have been pouring concrete to form the concrete barriers along the overpass near Hunter Road and are working to do the same near Goodwin. This may require temporary or sporadic closures as trucks enter or exit the roadway, but nothing lasting or long-term at all. At most, these closures will last 10 minutes.

Hunter is on pace to have the work complete by the end of the school year (and start of the summer river floating season).

FM 1101

The expansion of FM 1101 between Hwy 46 and FM 306 has been on hold nearly six months while we await utilities to be moved out of conflict. The deadline for that is in April, and we'll then release Hunter Industries to begin work.

The project will last about a year and a half, with most of the work happening during the summers of 2015 and 2016. Since three schools are along this work zone, it's critical we reduce our impact during the school year.

The final product will feature a new center left-turn lane, expanded shoulders for bike use and sidewalks.

I-35 ramp reversals

Dan Williams Company is running slightly ahead of schedule and is ready to open the new northbound entrance ramp from FM 306 around St. Patrick's Day. This new on-ramp is located near Conrads-Kohlenberg and will require the current exit to Conrads-Kohlenberg to close. Traffic to Conrads-Kohlenberg will exit FM 306 and pass through the intersection.

Naturally, that means an uptick in traffic at an already stressed intersection. However, the north-to-south turnaround at FM 306 will open - permanently - and the intersection should see some relief.

The new exit ramp, located near FM 306 (designed to capture the truck traffic headed to the WalMart transfer warehouse), is set to open by the first weekend of April.

Meanwhile, Dan Williams is beginning to set up for work on the southbound side. This is about two months ahead of schedule. They have more work to do on the southbound side than they did on the northbound side, so drivers shouldn't expect such an early finish on the southbound side. We initially planned about six months for each side. We are sticking with the six-month schedule on the southbound side for now.

Walnut Avenue

The city of New Braunfels has approved a proposal brought by us on behalf of the contractor, Dean Word Company, to close Walnut Avenue completely between Grandview and Floral avenues. That closure should take place the week after St. Patricks Day.

Once Walnut Avenue is closed, Dean Word will begin expanding the road through the canyon and will install storm drain features on the uphill and downhill sides of the canyon. The phase of work - and the closure - is expected to last about nine months.

The closure will shorten the overall project duration, however, by about six months. Work began earlier this year and will wrap up before the summer of 2016.

U.S. 281 at Hwy 46

We have received occasional calls asking about the progress on this project that constructs turnarounds for U.S. 281 traffic at Hwy 46 in Bulverde.

CRG is the contractor out there, and they are indeed running behind schedule. As is typical in a situation like this, TxDOT is assessing liquidated damages against the contractor to the tune of a little under $1,000 per day. This is the strongest leverage the department has to help motivate a contractor to accelerate production of a project.

Lately the delays on the project have been due to an equipment breakdown that took several weeks to get repaired. Once the machinery that broke down was ready to work again, weather tackled the area and stopped any productive work from happening.

Project managers are pointing to a completion date early this summer, if all goes well.