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Tuesday, July 12

Mail Bag: Marbach extensions, that ramp from Ralph Fair Road, development of I-35 and of Lp 1604

When Marbach will be extended west of Loop 1604? Please provide schematic. Thank you.
- Edwin
Edwin, you've asked a pretty easy question! The answer is "we don't know". Marbach is a city or a county facility and is not maintained nor developed by TxDOT. For the area you're looking, we recommend reaching out to the good folks at Bexar County.
To be perfectly honest, new roads aren't really built by the county or the city. In a situation like this, that development would be done by the private developers building up the Marbach area. Just take a look at Alamo Ranch Parkway and its extension for a current example, or look at the way Wiseman was built much before that.
So, if you're wondering when Marbach will be extended ... well, get in touch with the private developers continually building that area out.

I know there have been some questions regarding the east bound on ramp at Ralph Fair Road. I'm curious why the on ramp isn't like the one shown in the TxDOT design manual. Figure 3-29 shows 1,050 ft (450 ft and 600 ft) and I think you're much shorter. How come? Isn't this what's making it dangerous?
- Joe
Well that's about as loaded a question as could be asked, isn't it? And, in fairness, this question was asked quite a while ago - we wanted to be sure to have a good scientific answer for you.
For starters, we're not much shorter than the guidelines in the TxDOT design manual. If you take a look at the notes our engineers made just for this post, you'll note the actual distances are 397 feet from the end of gore to the end of hash lines, and another 563 feet from end of hash lines to the end of taper.

For those keeping track at home, that's a total of 970 feet - less than 8 percent off the suggested dimensions in the design manual. When considering constraints here with drain structures and bridges (this ramp is sandwiched between Nochols and Leon creeks), that's pretty darned awesome.
Bottom line: we stand by our initial response to this issue with confidence.

Just read your mailbag post. Great stuff! I'm just curious if you had any info on the 151/1604 project. I seem to recall that there was some mention of the direct connector being projected to be operational sometime in June. Obviously I'm sure the weather has delayed that, but any word on an ETA?
- Felix
Construction seems to have stopped on the elevated connector from SB 1604 to EB 151. At one point, it was scheduled to open in June 2016. What's the updated schedule to open that connector?
- Trevor 

At the new construction 151-1604 interchange, I see the southbound 1604 exit to 151 flyover looking like it's progressing well. However, it looks as if the new eastbound (from Alamo Ranch Parkway) to 151 connection will run right into the structural member holding up the aforementioned flyover ramp. Was this a mistake in construction, or will the entire east-bound left lane get scrapped and/or relocated?
- Glenn

Felix and Trevor are right, we did boast a tentative opening of the end of June (thanks, Felix, for the kind words!). That was before we got hammered with the rains in April and May, though. Weather shifted the contractor priority to wrapping up work along Loop 1604. That work's deadline was mid-June, and going beyond the deadline carried financial disincentives. Work goes where the money is, and that meant crews being pulled to finish up those main lanes and frontage roads.
Right now the projected opening of the direct connector is in August, though we don't have an exact date. We should note overall completion isn't due until early 2017 - and the contractor isn't really obligated to open this incrementally (though doing so will certainly help them progress their work).
As for the eastbound connector, Glenn ... take a look at this:
If you look closely you'll see hard lines or squares across the direct connector (curved red road). You'll note one of those hard lines lands right up against where the abutment for the Hwy 151 overpass at Lp 1604 sets (blue and read meet, top-center of picture).
These hard lines are the column caps and abutments for the bridge structure. The one you're seeing will be just to the right of what you're seeing. Heck, we've even got the bridge spans in place now so you can see it when you drive through.
Just so we're clear, the overpass over Lp 1604 that merges Hwy 151 with Alamo Ranch Parkway is set to open to traffic by the end of this year.

Many salutations! I am called Damon Mason. I have been driven along the McDermott Freeway and am very impressed with how that highway has been revised to have five lanes in both directions between downtown San Antonio and Loop 410. One question that bugs me is why I-35 has not been revised in the same five-lanes coming-and-going manner that has been done with the McDermott Freeway. Why has that not been done, AAMPO?
- Damon
Why can I-35 not be revised so that freight truck traffic and private auto traffic are using separate levels? Most of the vehicular collisions are caused by private motorists behaving recklessly around freight trucks which have a mass of 80K pounds (or even heavier!); one solution is for freight trucks to have a level of the highway where there are no hydraulic-decelerated vehicles allowed and for private automobiles to have a level of the highway where there are no air-decelerated vehicles allowed. Why has that not been put into practice?
- Damon
Damon (he wrote us twice), this really is a question for the Alamo Area MPO. While we have a seat at that table, we're just one of several. That, and we're not the controlling agency of the MPO - the MPO is independent.
The need on I-35 is clear, and we've got several options being considered. Ultimately it'll be up to the MPO to determine when we'll move on I-35 and how that work will be funded.

What it's going to happen with 1604 between Bandera Road and I-10? With the construction between Culebra and Bandera finishing, traffic here has gotten even worse with increased traffic and accessibility. Are improvements for this stretch stuck in environmental study or funding limbo?
- Andrew

In a word, Andrew, yes.
The real need here is an upgrade - a significant upgrade - to the intersection of I-10 and Loop 1604. While the expansion of Loop 1604 has helped traffic on the far northwest side, it's also rushed traffic into the already existing logjam leading up to I-10 (and, frankly, all the way to US 281). The whole problem requires three major solves.
First, we need an additional lane of traffic for each direction of Loop 1604 between I-10 and US 281 at a minimum (and between Bandera Road and I-35 at a practical level). We know that. Infortunately, we don't have finances to construct that additional lane (though the MPO has been developing ideas for it, as you can see on page 9 here). 
Next, we need a significantly upgraded intersection at I-10. We're solving the problem at US 281 already; the cloverleaf at I-10 is outmoded by far at this point. This is another situation that's in need of significant funding to address. A typical interchange like we need at that location can easily top $500 million. Unfortunately, we're not the kind of agency that just carries that kind of cash on us. We're looking for ideas to get that price tag down - and one way is to build the full interchange in phases. We've already got one phase identified for development next year, at a price tag of about $110 million.
Finally, we need to do some "operational improvements", or adjust the way the ramps are set up and reverse ramps where possible. This means reversing some of the ramps to fit the Super X configuration you see on expressways across the city. This could be something we do as a stop-gap to improve (though, admittedly, only slightly) issues between now and a larger fix. This is all stuff to go through the MPO, though - and it's all being considered. Seriously, just check out the list of projects the MPO has on its wish list. Quite frankly, we just need money to do this.

We'll have more later this week....
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