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Tuesday, June 2

Loop 1604 expansion back at full speed

The only project in Bexar County to lay asphalt last week was the Loop 1604 project between Bandera and Culebra roads.

Why? Because Williams Brothers has their own asphalt supply, and they were able to salvage material from the wet weather. This helped them continue work on the frontage roads between Braun Road and Shaenfield - frontage roads that were set to be finished and in use this week.

Well, that was the old plan. The antediluvian plan.

Now WB is targeting the last week of June to have the frontage roads open and traffic running on them full-time. Remember: when this happens, speed limits will be cut to 45 miles per hour and you'll have traffic turning onto and off of the highway at a number of locations. Maintaining that posted speed limit of 45 MPH and being rid of distractions will be critical to maintain safety for everyone.

In order to get there, we've got a number of work activities on deck.

The work on Shaenfield was slowed significantly - but not stopped altogether - by the weather. Project supervisors have indicated they'll finish running the southbound frontage road across Shaenfield by the end of this week, opening up the road to two lanes each direction again.

Bowen's Crossing
Work across Bowen's Crossing will begin in earnest this week. Crews are building the northbound frontage road across the side street. That work will be done in halves, turning Bowen's Crossing into a one-way road at Loop 1604. The direction that's closed off will use New Guilbeau as a detour. In all, Bowen's Crossing should be crossed in about a week.

Northbound frontage road
If you drive through the project area, you'll notice a lot of activity on the northbound frontage road (or what will be the northbound frontage road). While dirt crews are installing storm drain culverts along the road (between the frontage road and main lanes), road crews are working on tying in driveways - like the ones at the Cavenders car lot - into the frontage road. Concrete crews are working on the curbs and sidewalks, and are nearing completion with that work.

This week road crews are building a temporary detour ramp near Cavenders, which will get northbound traffic from Culebra onto Loop 1604 next week when crews start work on the new exit ramp. This will begin Saturday, June 7. This won't impact the northbound main lane traffic coming from, say, Hwy 151 or Wiseman. The right through lane along that stretch near Shaenfield will be blocked to through use and converted into an acceleration lane for traffic coming from Culebra. If you're coming from Culebra Road, though, you won't have an entrance ramp immediately at Culebra (in front of the emergency care building). Instead you'll follow the frontage road, pass the Cavender dealership and enter the Loop 1604 main lanes.

With this detour going on and the current (old) on-ramp closed, WB will construct what will be the northbound exit ramp to Shaenfield. This ramp will be used to move traffic onto the frontage road when we move into our next phase of work (last week of June).

Southbound frontage road
While work continues at Shaenfield, road builders are working on the second lane of the frontage road (what used to be Leslie Road) between Helotes Creek and Culebra. With that work, expect to see the southbound entrance ramp prior to Culebra built in the next two or three weeks. The foundation base of the road is nearly built, asphalt crews should start moving in shortly.

On June 22 WB will close Tausch Drive - the road serving as an entry to the Wildhorse subdivision onto the frontage road - and all Wildhorse traffic will be detoured to Shaenfield or Braun Road. This will allow road builders to complete the frontage road at that location in a quick shot. The closure of Tausch should last less than a week.

Braun Road
Last weekend bridge builders hung bridge support beams to form the Braun Road overpass. This required closing the road at Loop 1604 through the weekend, which seemed to go fairly smoothly.

With the beams in place, bridge crews are now ready to set bridge deck panels and work on the actual bridge deck structure. This means the same closure will be implemented nightly for the next two weeks, between 9 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. If you're a nighttime driver here, remember the detour is to use turnarounds at Bandera Road and just south of Shaenfield. FM 1560 is also a viable route to connect Culebra and Bandera roads, if your destination is along there.

Highway 151
If you have your passenger look (don't look while you're driving - focus on the road!) along northbound Loop 1604 at the new Hwy 151 crossing, you'll notice bridge support columns being built feverishly. That, and dirt work to prepare for the bridge abutments is moving forward. Work began to build the overpass that will guide Hwy 151 over Loop 1604 just a few months ago and already progress is visible.

On the southbound side, crews are working (again) on the drill shafts for the bridge support columns. Expect to see continued activity on that southbound side (particularly the frontage road) in upcoming weeks. Those driving in the area should be aware of the private commercial development that also shows activity near Alamo Ranch Parkway and the frontage road - know that's not our crews. If you see bright yellow-green vests with a black "WB" printed squarely on the back, that is our folks.

Some have asked whether traffic from Culebra will have direct access to the new connector ramp getting southbound Loop 1604 onto eastbound Hwy 151. The answer, in a word, is no. Planners determined the priority movement is getting traffic from southbound Loop 1604 to Alamo Ranch Parkway. More traffic is anticipated for that movement than is expected for the Culebra-to-151 group. For those along Culebra, Hwy 151 will be easily accessed from Alamo Ranch Parkway when we're all done.

Why did we have to limit ourselves to one traffic movement? The competing (engineers like to call it "conflicting") weave that's generated by traffic from Culebra and traffic from Loop 1604 fighting for the same space of roadway is too great and could create a scenario that's less than desirable. By limiting that movement to just one and eliminating that conflict, safety is enhanced.

Finish date
We are on pace to finish the project - Loop 1604 and Hwy 151 - by the end of 2016.