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Tuesday, February 7

2017: A year in preview

Last month we talked about what 2016 meant to us. Well, 2017 is a pretty darned special year. For those who don't already know, it's a pretty big birthday for TxDOT - but more on that later.

Out with the old
This is the year we finally wrap up work on I-35 between Windcrest and SAMMC. This project, which adjusts a ton of ramps and adds an auxiliary lane in each direction, kicked off back in 2013, was initially set to wrap up near the end of 2016. A slew of issues, ranging from discrepancies in the plan sheets to resource allocation by the contractor to utility conflicts, have plagued the project throughout. Most of these issues have been addressed and, by year's end, we should have this project wrapped up. Once work is complete our auditors and project staff will comb through project schedules and our documents to determine how much of the delay is on our end (TxDOT) and how much is with the contractor (Lane Construction). After this review process (which happens with every project) appropriate liquidated damages will be assessed.
For those driving the area, though, the big news will be the relief from construction-zone traffic so long sought after. The first item that should open up is the new direct connector for southbound I-35 to southbound I-410. Traffic is already basically in its final configuration with the right-hand exit, but has been using the old connector bridge. With the new bridge in use we'll be able to take out the old one and construct the new northbound exit to Rittiman Road.
We should see the remaining exit and entrance ramps between Rittiman Road and Walzem reopen so all those ramp revisions are finished. That also means the auxiliary lane we've been working on should be ready for traffic, which should open up traffic flow quite a bit.
The final area of work is on the north end of the project with some ramp revisions at Randolph Boulevard.
Another long-awaited completion (this one impacted by heavy utility conflicts and resource issues) is the work along I-10 in the Leon Springs area. Texas Sterling Construction should wrap up work on the frontage roads between Dominion Drive and Boerne Stage Road by this summer, if we're able to keep our current schedule. The biggest work item remaining at this point is the new set of eastbound ramps between Boerne Stage Road and Dominion Drive. We've also got some sidewalk work on the westbound side to wrap up. Once those ramps and sidewalks are in we'll see a final layer of asphalt laid project-wide and be done.
The first major project to wrap up, though, is the work on the intersection of Loop 1604 and Hwy 151. We're still working on the finishing touches, but for the purposes of this post we can affirm we'll be finished up in a matter of a few weeks.
We'll also wrap up work along US Hwy 90 between Loop 1604 and I-410 this summer. The main feature of this project is its conversion of the frontage roads to one-way, though we're also replacing the bridges over Medio Creek on the frontage roads and main lanes and adding auxiliary lanes to improve some traffic flow along the main lanes. Oh, and then there's the new west-to-east turnaround at Loop 1604.
Though we've still got frontage roads squeezed to a single lane in some areas, we're nearly in final configuration. As we work to wrap this job up expect to see a ton of work going on between Hunt Lane and I-410, particularly on the westbound side.
By the way, we've got some new barrels and barricades on US 90 near Loop 1604 - these are associated with the Loop 1604 project near there, which includes a direct connector from southbound Loop 1604 to eastbound US 90.

In with the new
One project starting in 2017 will overshadow all the others: the expansion of US 281 between Loop 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway.
(Please: Don't break the internet with your rejoicings, cursing or other exclamations as you read that sentence....)
That's right, we're finally getting after that whole 281 thing. We're adding overpasses at Redland Road, Encino Rio, Evans Road and Stone Oak/TPC Parkway. The main lanes will feature at least four lanes in each direction, with two of those lanes being carpool and transit lanes. We'll also keep the frontage road capacity right at about what US 281 has right now. The whole project will take about four years to build and will ceremoniously kick off at the end of March (you'll see equipment moving around in May). Webber Construction is currently our apparent low bidder for the project with a bid of $192.3 million. That bid will need to be accepted by the Texas Transportation Commission later this month before it's official.
Oh, yeah, and as part of this project we're building those four other direct connectors at 1604 and 281 - the ones that weren't built when the RMA had the interchange built a few years ago.
We've got a similar project slated for I-10 between Loop 1604 and Ralph Fair Road this year. That project adds two new lanes in each direction - one each being a carpool/transit lane - and will get going late summer this year. This project should last about three years.
The first major project to get going this year, though, has been at the intersection of US 90 and I-410. This project started in January and essentially repeats what we're doing at 151 and 410. That is, we're doing connectors for eastbound US 90 to northbound I-410 and for southbound I-410 to westbound US 90, and we're adding a lane in each direction to I-410 while rearranging some of the entrance and exit ramps to improve traffic flow. Williams Brothers Construction - the same contractor working at 151 and 410 as well as on Loop 1604 at Hwy 151 - is building this $120.8 million job and should have things wrapped up in 2019.

Aaaand ... we're officially "old"
Schoenen geburtstag fuer uns! (Random: did you know German immigrants accounted for San Antonio's initial growth surge in the 1850s and 1860s? True story - street signs were even in German, English and Spanish at the time as a result!)
The Texas Department of Transportation will celebrate this year 100 years of delivering a safe, reliable and integrated transportation system to move people and goods across this great state. There are a number of milestones we'll be celebrating as the year goes by, and we'll discuss where we've come from and where we're headed. There's been a lot of learning in our century of service, and we're excited to share our lessons learned with stories of yesteryear.