Monday, April 11

Mail Bag

Will the new eastbound on-ramp to I-10 at Ralph Fair Rd be improved to provide an acceleration lane? Due to the angle of the ramp entry visibility still seems limited. We need an acceleration lane since we are entering a 75-plus MPH freeway from a very slow or stopped speed. This is still a very dangerous entry ramp and with the Wal-Mart opening soon it will become even more of an issue.
- Vicky

Vicky, you've got a few items to address here. First, the ramp and its configuration you're now seeing is the final product. That said, a few very careful clarifications should be made.
First, I-10 is not a "75-plus MPH freeway" at that location. In fact, right now the speed limit is 60 MPH because of construction. Once construction is done, the speed limit will return to the normal posted limit of 70 MPH. If traffic is frequently exceeding 75 miles per hour as you're saying, please contact appropriate law enforcement agencies and insist on more frequent speed enforcement.
Second, you shouldn't be accelerating from a stop or a slow speed. Entrance ramps are designed to be, themselves, an acceleration lane. Visibility for the attentive driver begins long before they reach the merge point of the ramp. In fact, at least one online expert in safe driving suggests if you're slow or stopped at the end of the ramp, trying to then merge into traffic, you're probably doing it wrong. (To be clear, Vicky, we're not saying you are doing it wrong, but the "you" here is plural....)
Some brief pointers for drivers merging onto the highway:
  1. Get up to speed quickly, This is what the whole ramp is actually designed for. By time you reach the end of the ramp, you should be traveling at highway speeds.
  2. Look for merge gaps early. In this particular location, you can begin looking for gaps before you actually get onto the ramp - your visibility starts when you're turning onto the frontage road from Ralph Fair Road.
  3. Create gaps ahead and behind you. Basically, don't follow so close to the person in front of you and let them merge as well. If you do it right, you'll do what's called a "zipper merge".
  4. Merge quickly. This one is from the experts: "Once you’ve located the gap, move into it quickly. It should take approximately 4 seconds to move from the merge lane into your new lane. Also, if you notice that a car has slowed down to let you in, you need to begin moving into that gap within 2-3 seconds. If you wait too long, that car is going to think that you do not want to merge into the space and potentially close the gap."
  5. Finally, coming to a stop in the ramp is not a good idea. While so many figure they can simply stop at the end of the ramp and wait for a gap in traffic, this simply isn’t safe. It takes the average car approximately 10-12 seconds to accelerate from zero to 65 MPH. A car on the highway will drive about one-fifth of a mile in that time. By stopping, you'd now need a gap in traffic at least that long - or a gap that starts almost all the way at the Ralph Fair Road overpass.
All that said, as the area continues to grow and develop surely an acceleration lane (actually, an auxiliary lane) will be considered. As far as the Wal-Mart development ... well, the entrance ramp is well ahead of the Wal-Mart, so that should be a non-factor completely. Hope that helps.

I noticed (last week) they closed the turning lanes at the intersection or Babcock and UTSA Boulevard, and I'm just curious if there's any sort of timeline as to when those will be back to normal or whether it will continue until the project is complete.
Second - and I'm sure you get a TON of questions of about this - but concerning the 1604 expansion from Bandera to Culebra, as well as the interchange at 151 and 1604, is there any chance of an update video of sorts? I believe it's been a while since the last one you've posted, and seeing so much progress in the time that's past, I think it would be really neat to see something in the near future.
- Felix
Great questions, Felix. Easy question first - we've got a live video tour planned for tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon, 1 p.m. That will be done via Periscope on our Twitter account. We'll also work to have an edited version posted on YouTube shortly thereafter.
As for UTSA Boulevard, there's actually two active projects. The TxDOT project runs from I-10 to Ximenes Avenue. The city has their own project - they're matching what we're doing - and that runs to the Babcock intersection you were talking about. For questions about that intersection and their project, reach out to San Antonio's Transportation and Capital Improvements folks.
For those unfamiliar with what's happening at UTSA Boulevard, we're expanding it to two lanes in each direction with a center left-turn lane. We're also adding some pedestrian facilities to improve the safety of students walking, jogging or riding their bikes along this corridor. Work began a bit over a year ago and has a bit more than a year left before the final product will be in place.

During the construction on I-10 out to Fair Oaks, why isn't I-10 being made three lanes each way.
- Robert The short answer, Robert, is money. While the need to expand is present - which is why we've got a plan to add two lanes in each direction between Camp Bullis and Ralph Fair Road - the more immediate need was to improve the operations of our feeder roads.
We do what we can with the money available. With more than $5 billion in needs across San Antonio alone, we're doing what we can as we can do it. I think we're running somewhere around $500 million in new construction contracts annually, though this year may be a banner year in getting projects let. A lot of that is thanks to the legislature's end of diversions from the highway fund and voters approving Proposition 7 in November.
Among those additional projects we see coming up is the expansion, which will include non-tolled transit lanes similar to what we'll see in the expansion of U.S. 281 between Loop 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway.
Details on that plan can be discussed at length with the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

On inbound Shaenfield Road (eastbound) at 1604, the two right lanes are marked on the road as going straight through the intersection with only the far right lane having the option to turn right or go straight. However, each morning when I drive through the intersection, I see vehicles making it a double right turn. Prior to the underpass being completed, it was a double right turn, with both lanes turning right onto the superstreet. Is it possible to place signs on the roadside and on the light signals indicating which lane may turn and which goes straight through the light? I believe there should be double right turn lanes as traffic backs up significantly in the right hand lane, resulting in drivers illegally turning right from the 2nd to right lane or trying to jump the line and move over at the last moment, and there doesn’t seem to be significant traffic going straight through the intersection.
- Marcia
In about two weeks, that whole situation is going to dramatically change. That said, the request for lane assignment signage has been submitted more than once. We'll check to see what the status is, because we need to get that taken care of soon.
Your suggestion of a dual-right turn lane option is an interesting and outside-the-box option, but isn't used well at intersections like this. The layout makes such a situation just impractical and (potentially) hazardous. While the traffic operation may lend itself to such a scenario now, that will change in about two weeks.
It's completely cliche and tough to say on our end, but patience is the key - in two weeks, once main lane traffic is live on the southbound side and most of that cross-traffic on the frontage road is gone, you'll find that right-turn lane flows a lot smoother and has a virtual zero queue.

What is the estimated completion date for the project on I-10 between Dominion Drive and Ralph Fair Road as of the start of April?
-BillRight now we're shooting for the first part of fall to have this project all wrapped up. Most of the traffic should be in its final configuration all the way around, though, by late summer.