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Thursday, June 4

I-10 Huebner update

It's no secret at this point we had some issues Monday morning with our work on I-10, which gummed up westbound traffic through the 8 o'clock hour.

The work being done is what we call a mill-and-overlay; we mill up 2-3 inches of asphalt and replace it with a good and new surface. With that layer of asphalt stripped out, a paving machine lays a new layer of asphalt in its place. The end result is a a smooth, finished surface of asphalt that is clean (and, in a situation like we're in on I-10, bonds well with the final layer to be laid soon after).
This diagram shows how a basic asphalt milling operation works. Without a new layer of asphalt, the milled surface left behind can be rough and contain pebbles that kick up and hit windshields - which is why the paving contractors on I-10 don't want to leave a milled surface exposed on the main lanes of the highway.

Overnight (Sunday into Monday), the asphalt supply plant broke down and wasn't able to produce asphalt to send to the project. When that first plant broke, project bosses moved to get material from a second plant. That plant broke down as well, leaving road crews without asphalt coming onto the job.
An asphalt batch plant similar to the one above, located off-site at an asphalt supplier's yard, broke down early Monday morning and halted production and delivery of asphalt to crews working on I-10. This photo and description of an asphalt batch plant courtesy Atlas Industries.

Ordinarily, we would stop milling and wait for whatever material we can get so we don't end up with a bigger area of unfinished roadway. That was, at least, the suggestion made by TxDOT folks on the project that night. The contractor doing the asphalt (Angel Brothers Construction) opted to continue milling because they said they weren't sure the supply of asphalt was indeed set to dry up. Communication gaps existed through the night, and Angel Brothers was unable to make contact with suppliers to know the issue was as serious as it was.

The result, then, was that we had paving crews on the roadway until nearly 9 a.m. and traffic on westbound I-10 backed up from DeZavala Road to the I-410 interchange in the Crossroads area. This is unacceptable, and we're doing what we can to ensure this doesn't happen again.

We have since reiterated contingency plans with our contractors - both Angel Brothers Construction and the contractor acting as lead on this project, Webber Construction - and let them know that, in the event of a plant break in the future, we will not permit further milling after a predetermined time in the night (around 1:30 a.m.). This is in line with the contingency plan discussed with both Webber and Angel Brothers when similar issues arose early May, but is now moved beyond being merely a request made to the contractor.

What's more, our inspectors will be helping the contractor maintain direct phone communication with the asphalt plant in the future. This will ensure that all parties are familiar with all aspects of the production line, allowing appropriate decisions to be discussed as work is being done.

A second issue - related to the first - has also been raised. Overnight closures are apparently causing delays for traffic (after midnight, mind you) of more than an hour and a half. Part of this is because crews have all but one lane closed on the westbound side for paving overnight - that will continue. For safety and production reasons, that needs to stay the way it has been. If you're driving through I-10 between Huebner and Loop 1604, expect lane closures - as many as three lanes closed - nightly through the rest of the month (no Friday or Saturday nights).

However, we should not have consecutive ramps - two consecutive exits or two consecutive entrances - with the work we're doing. Reports from some driving through the area are that we are closing consecutive ramps. That issue has been addressed and should come to a halt.

Now for the good stuff (translation ... time to let you know what we have left before we're done with this project):

We are only a few weeks from having this project finished. Once we have the current road surface in place we'll get to lay the final surface of asphalt (what's being laid right now is a base layer). After the final surface is down, we'll paint lane markers.

We still have some small concrete items left to do, but all of our structures are built. We do have some cleaning across the project to take care of, which is being done on a daily basis.

We also have a small area of roadway that needs repaired and replaced from nearly the base on up (about 20 inches deep). When we have a schedule for that work, we'll broadcast that schedule as loudly as we can. The good news is that work can be done in a few short days (that may mean weekend closures over the course of a future weekend in order to get it done quickly).

Overall, Webber Construction is targeting the end of this summer to have the project finished.
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