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Thursday, March 3

I-10 Leon Springs: Solutions considered....

Let's clear up two minor issues at the outset:

The brand-new signal on Boerne Stage Road at Baywater Stage is not a TxDOT asset. That signal belongs to Bexar County Public Works. They are working on any timing issues and, by now, should have most of the kinks worked out. As with any signal, there's about a week's worth of growing pains before engineers find that sweet spot of timing that works best for traffic flow.

We've gotten a few complaints about a signal head that's turned on Boerne Stage Road at HEB. This signal belongs to the city of San Antonio and any issues about that signal should be directed to them.

Now, on to our issues. Buckle up, this is going to be a longer post....

The biggest frustration has been from the new arrangement of the bridge over Leon Creek near Rudy's, with it cut to one-way only so crews can reconstruct the bridge. The bridge is being built in two halves, requiring us to have a single lane open only. This has created significant issues during the morning hours, though we're not seeing issues through the remainder of the day.
Once SAWS signs off on this valve and bypass, work to reconstruct this bridge will begin. During that time it will be a one-way road; it will reopen to two-way traffic when its complete. That will be this summer.
Some have asked how we couldn't have seen an issue like this occurring prior to work beginning. To be as simple as possible on this, we do conduct traffic studies during the planning processes. Our traffic control plan is based on an average per-hour traffic volume. This whole area, beyond early morning traffic, is really quite manageable. In fact, beyond a brief lunch rush through Leon Springs and an evening rush for folks getting home, traffic through the area is incredibly light.

While we did try to account for the issue of elementary school traffic, the sheer volume of traffic during the hours of 6-9 a.m. was simply far beyond our own projection.

All that said, here's a run-down of proposed solutions by those in the community and the results of our discussion regarding each. We'll also include some potential solves not brought up by residents but thought of by our guys in the field.

Option 1: Place officers to control traffic around Ralph Fair Road intersection during morning hours.
This option was introduced by a number of folks who called or emailed us regarding traffic problems. Unfortunately this won't solve the capacity issues at the heart of the whole situation, and there's no reason to believe having officers direct traffic will do any better than what the traffic signal is doing for us now - the gridlock being experienced will still exist.

Option 2: Have Bexar County Sheriff patrol the Ralph Fair Road intersection to stop dangerous driving behavior from happening.
We've heard about a "black truck" that's been making its own lanes wherever it feels inclined to go, including the grassy median and within areas where our workers are busy doing their jobs. Whomever the driver of the truck is ... well, you're now infamous and have your neighbors taking pictures of your license plate to report you. While we can't do any enforcement of these things ourselves, we can ask the county to help with traffic enforcement. Unfortunately we aren't able to provide compensation to guarantee law enforcement on-site. That's all up to the sheriff's office to respond to community requests.

Option 3: Open the eastbound between Ralph Fair and Boerne Stage to capacity (two lanes) as soon as possible.
Discussing with the contractor, the eastbound frontage road between Ralph Fair and Boerne Stage roads should be opened up to capacity around the end of the school year. The sticking point is the new bridge over Leon Creek, which is a work item being accelerated on this project. We know we're on a clock here, and expect traffic to get a bit tougher near the end of April when Wal-Mart opens up. While we do have some items to finish that will ease traffic between Ralph Fair and Wal-Mart - and those items will be taken care of - our primary focus is on that bridge. Once that bridge is opened back up we'll be able to open the whole frontage road up and traffic will start flowing a little easier.
This eastbound bridge over Leon Creek is being accelerated as much as possible and traffic is about to be switched to the left side (new side), but we still expect the duration of this work to last through the end of the school year.
Option 4: Open the eastbound frontage road between Ralph Fair and the new eastbound entrance ramp to full capacity (two lanes), effectively creating an auxiliary or an exit lane – also a merge lane for traffic on the west-to-east turnaround.
There are a few items to address here. First is the new entrance ramp that opened this week. That should give drivers a better experience getting onto the main lanes and affording a better flow for traffic coming from Ralph Fair. That said, we'll take a look at traffic and see what all else can be done, including extending that second lane. This isn't an option our engineers are excited about, because of the way it may impact driver behavior; that said, if the need exists after we've got the new ramp in place we'll re-examine some of our options.
Crews are expected to open the new eastbound entrance ramp from Ralph Fair tonight; this should help the morning traffic flow a bit.
Option 5: Open up Boerne Stage Road under the I-10 overpass.
This will happen this week, meaning we'll have two lanes in each direction on Boerne Stage under I-10. This should help get more folks into Leon Springs and help the traffic headed to Leon Creek Elementary in the mornings.

Option 6: Contraflow the roadway between Boerne Stage Road and Aue Rd for morning traffic.
A contraflow is a roadway that goes one direction at one time during the day and is switched to the other direction at another time. The idea here is to make that roadway eastbound during the morning hours and westbound the remainder of the day. This is an option we've looked at long and hard, but ultimately had to defer to safety. Contraflowing could lead to some confusion for drivers who may not be keeping track of the hours the road flowed in a specific direction. The ultimate fear is having a wrong-way driver collision, which can often be catastrophic. Because of these issues the contraflow option has been determined as not feasible.
By the way, the reason we have that road going west and not east? There's no other way to go west, period. That's part of why we have the problems we're having - there's only one route to go each direction.

Option 7: Install a signalized one-way traffic control system for the area between Boerne Stage and Aue roads.
This kind of falls in the same arena as the contraflow system we just talked about. With so many signals and intersections in this area already, adding another would likely result in greater problems - that is, this option would cause more problems than it would solve.

Option 8: Reopen the frontage road between Boerne Stage and Aue roads until the eastbound frontage road work is complete.
The real issue here is whether or not we'll be able to get to work soon - and that's a ball that's in SAWS' court. At issue is a valve that diverts a water line; if the valve is working properly, we'll get after it now. If not, we'll reconsider. Our priority is to get the work done as soon as possible, and the bridge reconstruction is going to take us about six months (we're trying to crash that down a month or so, but there's only so much money we can spend here). That's pretty typical, six months. If we start now as planned, we'd be finished in time for next school year. If we wait until the eastbound side is complete we'll overlap the start of next school year. We really don't want that. What's more, we'd push overall completion of the project back even more ... and we're trying hard to avoid that.
All said, if SAWS gives us the go-ahead on that valve, we'll get rocking and you'll see bridge demo happening next week.
This valve needs to be signed off by SAWS before demo work on the bridge between Boerne Stage and Aue roads can start.
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