Monday, July 13

Mail Bag: Highway signs, spare material on projects, closure announcements and more

I remember reading years ago on the Texas Highway Man Web site that one of the things the eponymous Highway Man wished he saw more of in the San Antonio district was more interchange sequence signs. I can think of maybe 3 or 4 I know of in the city, but admittedly, I don't see nearly as many here as I did when living in Houston (or visiting Dallas or Austin), and I'm curious: what is the reason the San Antonio area freeways have seemingly few of these signs?
- Donald

First of all, thanks for referencing the Texas Highway Man. If you're looking for a reliable third party to let you know the ins and outs of what we do, that's the place to go. While the site is in no way affiliated with the Texas Department of Transportation, the information there is typically right on target.

For those who don't know what Donald is talking about with sequence signs, here's a look:
A sequence sign on US 75 - "Central Expressway" - north of downtown Dallas.
Basically, sequence signs are those you'll typically see in an urban area showing you a list of upcoming exits, with the mileage before each exit.

Per our own Texas Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the rule of thumb is to use what's called advance guide signing - where we use a single sign, or two side-by-side signs, to warn drivers of an upcoming exit - unless the exits are very closely spaced. Our practice in San Antonio is to use the advance guide signs rather than sequence signs because most of our exits are spaced at least three-quarters of a mile apart.

It's our position in San Antonio that advance guide signs convey much simpler information versus the more complex info sets found on sequence signs.

What were the results of the variable speed limit pilot program on north Loop 1604?
- Mark

To find an answer to this question, we reached out to our traffic operations division up in Austin. The study results are in hand and are being prepared for publication right now - but they're not ready yet. Once those results are ready, they should be sent out via news release and readily available on our Web site. You'll also likely see a post on the topic right here, when the time comes.

What will become of the uprooted oak trees resulting from the expansion of Spur 53? That's an awful lot of firewood.
- Gary

This is a question that will give a glimpse into how the business of road-building works, and provide a solid answer to boot! Love questions like this....

As with any project, the contractor retains ownership of material (i.e. dirt, trees, etc.) removed from any contract. Whatever they do with that material is really their choice. This actually acts as an incentive for some contractors who aggressively bid projects, saving us a tremendous amount of money on the cost of construction. When a contractor aggressively bids on a project and under-bids competitors (often leaving potentially available money on the table), they are able to make a profit and earn the money to stay in business by appropriately finding a profitable way to dispose of the materials taken off the construction site.

That means that, if there's something you're interested in getting from the construction site (again, any site) you should coordinate that through the contractor. Just be aware that many contractors are dependent on that material to turn some sort of a profit. That may sound ridiculous with the dollar amounts we talk about (this project on UTSA Boulevard is a $9 million project, for instance), but the contractors are typically operating on a razor-thin profit margin for each project.

Now that a turn lane from eastbound Boerne Stage Road onto the eastbound I-10 access road is open, can something be done to make drivers stop or even just yield like they should? Accidents WILL happen there - the drivers are just not yielding.- Tim

First, it's good to hear there's some progress in the area that's helping. We know that project (Boerne Stage Road) isn't a TxDOT project (it's a Bexar County job), but it's right there next to ours. The county has done a fair job on the project, and it's near time to complete their work out there.

As for our project, the one thing that might help - an acceleration lane for that traffic to turn right onto - isn't in the cards. The best we can do is educate drivers on what the traffic configuration means to daily drivers. From there, the best option is to get law enforcement agencies to enforce things like yield signs or stop signs. Without that enforcement, folks simply don't seem to want to follow the rules. Our advice: take this one up with the appropriate law enforcement agencies.

There is a sign at the intersection of Wurzbach Pkwy and West Ave that has PA on it. What does PA stand for? When I lived in the north PA stood for Pennsylvania. You have us northern transplants confused. Please let me know!
- Jean

There's a really quick way to answer this one ... and since it's asked often, it's worth adding here: PA is TxDOT-ese for "Parkway". For Wurzbach Parkway, the state highway designation is "Parkway 1502".

In Texas, we use a number of state highway designations. We have the Interstate highways (NOT Interstate Highways - note the difference in capitalization!) like I-10, I-35, I-37, I-410 (Also note ... NOT "IH Whatever" ... Just a simple "I-" before the number!). We have U.S. Highways (like 281, 90, 87). We have Texas Highways (like 46 and 16). We have State Loops (like Loop 1604). We have State Spurs (like Spur 53, Spur 536 and Spur 371). We have Farm-to-Market (FM) roads, and we have Ranch-to-Market (RM) roads.

By the way ... the difference between the FM and RM designation is all geography. Generally speaking, west of U.S. 281 in our state, the roads are RM roads. East of U.S. 281, the roads are FM roads.

Each of these roads is owned, developed and maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation. If a road doesn't have one of these state highway designations, it's probably not maintained by us in any way.

Please check your dates. July and June appear to be randomly mixed on the July 2 (lane closures) post.
- Anonymous

Thanks for bringing this to our attention! Many of the lane closures each week are repetitive, so we do a lot of cut-copy-paste and then edit. There are some things that slip through the cracks, and on July 2 a lot of stuff slipped through. The issue was corrected for the July 10 post.

How come there was no notice of the closure of lanes on 1604 between Shaenfield and New Gulibeau?
- Zane

Well, Zane, the closures along that area were announced right here on the blog the week prior to these closures. There was some additional work, mostly at night and primarily around the turnarounds north of Shaenfield. Those closures were announced to us a little too late to get posted on the blog.

While these late closures are annoying (for all of us), they were very minimal. When they happen we get after the contractor and subcontractors responsible and they do better for us. That's what we'll do in this instance.