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Tuesday, October 25

Mail Bag: A month-plus worth of questions

Does TxDOT evaluate drainage conditions on major roads after a major rain?
The left lane of the southbound 281 access road between Bitters and Wurzbach Parkway was under water Monday morning (9/26). The on-ramp to 281 was also under water with a stalled car on the ramp. Since there was not a flood gauge on the side of the road, it was hard to know how much water was on the on-ramp.
- Tom

We do take a look for problem areas and find ways to address these areas as needed after our major flood events. At your location we don't have a posted flood gauge because it's not the location of a creek bed. Per our Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices:
"If used, the Depth Gauge sign shall be in addition to the ROAD MAY FLOOD, WATER CROSSING, or WHEN FLOODED TURN AROUND DON'T DROWN sign and shall indicate the depth of the water at the deepest point on the roadway." (Section 2C.35.03)
That same section tells us not to post a "water crossing" sign where water only occasionally or temporarily crosses due to flash floods, like this instance. The "road may flood" sign is for areas with frequent flooding issues. This little section of the southbound frontage road of US 281 does not qualify for one of these signs.

Do you know when will they begin to finish the clover on 1604 and 281? What is the projected duration of the project? Will they be expanding 281 from 1604 to Overlook Parkway and be adding bridges across the highway - for example, at Evans Road? Thanks.
- Sal
Are you talking about the other direct connectors at the intersection of Lp 1604 and US 281? Those are part of a project expanding US 281 to include overpasses and frontage roads through Stone Oak Parkway. That project is set to begin spring 2017 and will take more than three years to complete. Continuing the expressway from Stone Oak Parkway through the Comal County line is targeted for the winter of 2018-2019.

Can VIA provide new or modified bus route(s) to relieve traffic congestion in the Alamo Ranch area (e.g, Wiseman west of 1604, Alamo Ranch Parkway, Culebra & FM 1560, etc.)?
- Richard
This would be a fantastic question to pose to VIA; we can't speak on their behalf.

Regarding the "zipper merge", does the "merge at the last minute" rule apply to lanes which are used for entrance and exit ramps such as the ones on Loop 1604 between I-10 and Blanco Rd? Would it be possible to post "zipper merge" signs at several needed places in San Antonio?
To be honest, we're still fleshing out the best places for us to use the late merge or "zipper" as well as signing policies. One place you should always use it is when you're approaching a construction zone or a crash scene that's got lanes closed off. Remember - this really only applies during heavy traffic. If traffic is free flowing and not all that congested, merge as soon as you feel comfortable.
As for what to do at those ramp merge points, a good rule of thumb is to not cross a solid line. Wait for the broken line. That's supposed to show drivers where merging is to be done, but not everyone has gotten that memo.

Hi, I think someone wrote up the construction notices incorrectly this week. Your notice said "Current through Wednesday, October 19. 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. nightly. Main lanes, both directions, at Hwy 151. Alternating lanes will close while crews do overhead bridge work. Traffic will use the frontage roads to reach its destination."
1604 was closed off in the middle of the day all day Saturday, causing backups and gridlock. What happened here?
- Rick
Rick, you're absolutely correct. We completely missed the note regarding that closure and dropped the ball. We depend on contractors sending in closure alerts weekly by Thursday night in order to allow our communication staff time to get everything compiled into a weekly report. Sometimes a contractor misses this Thursday deadline, and we're working on getting accountability written into our contracts to prevent this. We're also working to ensure accountability exists when no notice is given.
In this case, it was an oversight - one that won't soon be repeated.

How far towards Canyon Lake is the FM 306 expansion project going to go?
All the way thru to Hgy 281?
- LD
The current work we have going runs from about Hunter Road and ends at River Chase. We have another project at the intersection of Bravo, near Canyon Lake, but that's constructing a left-turn lane at that location and won't expand the road beyond that.

What is the purpose of the new overpass at I-10 and Leon Spring Road?
- Jim
Jim, we're assuming you're talking about the work at Old Fredericksburg Road. If we're wrong, let us know.
We do get asked about the purpose from time to time, and some folks assume it's a widening project that will add capacity to the I-10 main lanes. It's not. All we're doing is adding this new overpass at Old Fred and converting the frontage roads to one-way.
The frontage road conversion is the key here; it's about safety, really. We're hoping to eliminate the excuse those on two-way frontage roads have when they end up driving the wrong way on an interstate. In order to do that, though, we need to shorten the distance for folks between their access point to I-10 and their feeder road. Old Fred cuts the distance between Ralph Fair and Fair Oaks roughly in half.
It also provides an additional distribution route for traffic from the growing Leon Springs/Fair Oaks Ranch area to reach I-10. Right now all that traffic is squeezed into Ralph Fair and through Fair Oaks. With this overpass and its accompanying entrances and exits, we're effectively adding a third option for folks to use in order to reach I-10 and commute into town as they are.

When will the construction of the north bound I-10 off ramp at Hwy 46 in Boerne be completed? This has been going on with little completion for over a year and there doesn't seem to be much current effort to complete it. This intersection is a daily mess. Thanks!
- Mike
We're still looking at spring 2017 for completion of this project. We don't have anything going on at the intersection, though, so we shouldn't really be impacting that much at all. None of the lane shifts we've had there actually impacts the operation of the intersection. What you're likely seeing in your daily commute is additional traffic from a rapidly growing section of Boerne.

On Hwy 46 just East of Boerne the speed limits coming into town are way to fast. There has already been a fatality accident in that area. Traffic should slow down before the Esperonza sub division. Traffic from there to Charger Blvd should not be 50 mph, and from there to the bend at the Kendall County Fair Grounds should be lower than 45. Speed is a proven factor in all accidents. This area is becoming very populated. The limits really need to be lowered. Please!
- Rodney
Rodney, there's a specific process for setting our speed limits and our processes rarely yield a lowered speed limit. That said, we checked with our traffic engineer, who dug this information out for us about a rarely used provision in our policy allowing local governments to conduct their own speed studies on state highways, then make their own recommendation to us:

TxDOT’s Procedures for Establishing Speed Zones, Chapter 4, Section 2Speed Zones Unacceptable to a CityAlthough TxDOT has the authority to alter the speed limits on highways within the corporate limits of cities or override a speed limit set by city ordinance on such highways, it is intended that studies be made and recommendations be presented to the city for their acceptance and passage of a city ordinance to establish city speed zones. TxDOT should make every effort to have reasonable speed limits established.In the event that a city will not accept the zones within its corporate limits as submitted by the district, and it is not possible to reach an agreement with the city on reasonable and prudent speed limits, then the district should prepare one strip map showing the city’s preference and one strip map showing TxDOT’s  recommendation. Both strip maps should be submitted to TRF along with the district’s request for Transportation Commission action for making one of the zones effective.  When the commission minute order has been passed, the district should send a copy of the minute order, along with a copy of the strip map, to the city.The setting of speed limits within a city by commission minute order should only be used as a last resort; TxDOT should make every effort to secure the cooperation of the city so that the zones will be set by city ordinance.