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Wednesday, January 18

Mail Bag: Loop 1604, Bandera Rd, I-35, I-10, Hwy 46

So ... we recently re-discovered a number of questions that were sitting un-answered in our blog post drafts list for well over a month. Without any further ado, here are the answers.

Are there any plans on reducing congestion on 1604 around Bandera? There are just way too many vehicles during morning and evening commute times that make getting to or from I-10 a 30-plus minute ordeal.
- Rudy
In a word, yes. However, we're still quite a while away from getting to anything. The real traffic issues here are the ramp configurations at both ends. On one side you have some capacity issues amplified by the cloverleaf intersection. On the other you have traffic slowing and backing up onto the highway main lanes because the ramp is near the cross road.
First there's the issue of that intersection of Loop 1604 and I-10. This whole issue is being taken up by the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which determines our strategic approach to transportation planning in the region, and the Alamo RMA (they're the lead agency on Loop 1604, actually).
At this point a lot of stuff is still up in the air, but we're estimating a cost of about $575 million to add two managed lanes in each direction between Bandera Road and US 281. Right now this is listed in our Project Tracker as something we'll get after early 2020 - but all that really means at this point is we've got it on our radar and we're working to make it happen, but it's currently unfunded.
The cloverleaf issue will partially be addressed with direct connectors running from managed lanes of Loop 1604 to managed lanes on I-10. the current $85 million project on our list addresses traffic outside Loop 1604 but won't help those headed from, say, Bandera Road to the USAA complex.
Again, right now we're still in the planning stages of all this, working out configurations and funding sources and all sorts of stuff. But it is on our radar!
As for that evening commute headed through Bandera ... that's a solve we're looking into as a part of potential stop-gap measures between now and the managed lanes projects. For that westbound movement to Bandera, a simple ramp reversal project - where we swap the entrance and exit ramps between Hausman and Bandera roads - could work wonders. This is something we're just looking into as a possibility to do in the nearer term, and we do not have details yet.
We do not yet have schematics or drawings for any of these jobs we're ready to make public.

What is the status of the re-do of the environmental survey required for expanding 1604 from I-35 to Bandera Rd? When can we expect to see this much needed project get started. I have a one hour commute home daily from Stone Oak to the Fair Oaks area, with most of the congestion on 1604 west bound.
- Peter
Simply put, the environmental survey is on hold at the moment. The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority is the lead agency on this, and they are waiting to identify a viable finance plan (see above) before they invest again in the environmental documents process.

I noticed construction going on at I-35/North New Braunfels. Are there plans to widen the North New Braunfels bridge over I-35?
- William
We're not just widening the bridge, William, we're totally replacing it. A major closure of I-35 a couple of weeks ago really got this kicked off. Right now we've got one lane of traffic in each direction on the bridge while crews replace the first half; we'll go into a second phase in a few months where we'll swap traffic over and finish the job. Bottom line: we'll be wrapping up this project by early 2018.
By the way, the new bridge will look a lot fancier. It's designed to look more like the Walters bridge, which should improve the aesthetics of the area.

When will construction begin on the north overpasses (connectors) of 1604 and 281?.
- Jose
This year! We're working to plan our ground-breaking ceremony (spoiler: the governor will come down for this!) in the early spring. We're receiving bids in February and should be underway around the end of the school year.
This project includes the expansion of US 281 between Loop 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway.

I noticed construction zone signage in place on State Hwy 46 just east of the Boerne city limits. What type of project is planned?
- Mark
A project that's not in San Antonio? You don't say! We have a lot of projects out of the metro area, and this is one of them. It's a pretty up-front job out there; we're adding passing lanes at strategic locations between Boerne city limits and the Kendall-Comal county line. This is a project we just got going with and we still have plenty to go; expect to see completion in 2018.

I've read about the zipper merge and how some states are 'retraining' their drivers to use it. I think TxDOT should do a retraining campaign. This is great info and more people need to see it. I, too, thought it was rude to go to the front of the line. But it's a good thing.
- Carolyn
We're working on one! You've likely seen our post on the zipper merge already. Share it with friends! We are working with our friends in Austin to begin state-wide awareness campaigns. The zipper works!

Question: Are you really not going to make I-10 a three-lane road each way? This is ridiculous or just job preservation (built-in functional obsolescence). You have everything set-up to make it a three-lane road, but won't. Why? It's going to cost so much more to do it in two or three years. I don't expect you to respond, but I just had to mention this.
- John
Our notes remind us, John, you're talking about the I-10 work between Ralph Fair Road and Fair Oaks Parkway that's going right now. That project adds an overpass at Old Fredericksburg Road and converts the frontage roads to one-way.
No, we're not adding any lanes. Really, really.
Why not? A couple of reasons. First, money. We simply don't have it in the budget at the moment. We also don't have the environmental clearance to do that yet.
Now, we do have clearance to add lanes (making a total of four in each way) between La Cantera Parkway and Ralph Fair Road. That's set to start later this year (likely mid- to late-summer).