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Tuesday, March 14

Wurzbach Parkway and NW Military ... still developing

We are hearing from some who live near the planned project at the intersection of Wurzbach Parkway and NW Military that the plans presented at our recent forum are concrete regardless of input from the public.
With this in mind we want to review (briefly) what's happening, why we're doing it and where we are in the planning process.
For information on the project (if you're not familiar already), check it out here.


The plan in principle
The main goal of what we're trying to do is get the main lanes of Wurzbach Parkway through Northwest Military Drive and, potentially, Lockhill-Selma (for a later project, perhaps). Once Wurzbach Parkway pushes through Lockhill-Selma it's no longer a parkway and becomes Wurzbach Road, a city facility. Frankly, after that point the road just isn't designed to be a parkway but an arterial. With the heavy development approaching I-10, we simply don't have a lot of options to take the parkway all the way to I-10.


The problem we're solving
When we finished the last segment of Wurzbach Parkway back in 2015 drivers began using the route as an east-west expressway between I-10 and I-35. The problem is the number of traffic signals at the bookends of Wurzbach.
Why the signals? Because, frankly, Wurzbach was not initially intended to be an expressway. When designed in the 1980s it was intended to be a connector route for communities east and west of US Hwy 281. Those first segments were on the bookends (we worked from the outside and went toward the middle) and included traffic signals.
Drivers should know once Wurzbach crosses Lockhill-Selma (on the west) and Weidner (on the east) it's a city street. TxDOT only owns and maintains the portion between those two roads.
Over the years driver demands have changed and we've tried to accommodate those changes. One such accommodation was the increase of speed limits on the Parkway from 45 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour. This increase was done because of the overwhelming demand from drivers in the area.
With traffic moving rather quickly in the middle, we're seeing traffic really bog down once it hits Northwest Military. We think if we can get that higher-speed traffic through that intersection we should see enough of a reduction in traffic volumes approaching Lockhill-Selma and beyond things will be pretty manageable.
This brought the city council office for District 8 in San Antonio to have us sit down and think through some options to promote better traffic flow. We even dedicated about $1 million to studying traffic patterns to figure out where people are trying to go and how we can best help them get there. The work has yielded some interesting results and is still ongoing.


One solution
Again, the goal is to push main lane traffic through the intersection of Northwest Military and allow others to seek alternate routes at the intersection without bogging down the through traffic. One design that will help this along and was presented is a SPUI at the intersection of the Wurzbach exit ramps and Northwest Military. The intersection would favor left- and right-hand turns onto Northwest Military as traffic moves to communities in the area.
This is a new design to San Antonio used fairly effectively elsewhere across the nation - and beyond - as an innovation in traffic configurations. Without trying new things, after all, we'll end up with the same result and continue being bogged down at traditional intersections. Being forward-thinking about the current and future problems of the intersections is what our folks were trying to accomplish.
That said, some have criticized the idea as being overly burdensome for some specific neighborhoods. These have provided feedback, including comments, that will be considered in the final design of the project.


It isn't set in stone
With our road designs, this really popular idiom is, well, literal. Until a project has been constructed with concrete poured and asphalt laid, we typically have at least a little wiggle room. While we're still designing the project we've got a lot of wiggle room.
Though the official comment period is up March 15, we're still open to suggestions. The deadline is set so we have a cut-off point to include comments in our official records of the public hearing process and is designed to keep us compliant with state and federal rules on this sort of thing. The deadline isn't a hard deadline.
Once we get to March 16, the plans aren't set in stone.
In fact, we're still really early in the planning process (we'll have to post on what that is another time...). If you've got input on the project, sent it our way. Well, send it to the folks with Parsons-Brinkerhoff who are helping us on these plans. They can be reached at wurzbach@pbworld.com.
Or you can always just send it to us. Please email it to us using the online form here - leaving comments through the blog is not the most effective way to let us know what you think on this one.


Every project has trade-offs
Ultimately, these are your roads. We can come up with every forward-thinking design we can cart out, but if these ideas aren't meeting the needs you have now and you think will exist in the next 5-25 years ... well, we won't go that route.
As our director of transportation planning and development often says, we don't like to go where we're not wanted.
This means getting the trade-offs you are willing to make and want to see happen. So let us know - keep the ideas coming! We have changes on nearly every single project we develop stemming from public input. If you don't like the ideas we're coming up with, tell us what you don't like and what you would do different - and we'll try to incorporate those ideas to the best of our ability.
Note we do consider a democratic process here. If a complaint is from one single individual while the overwhelming feedback from others is to do the opposite, we're going to stick with the masses. That doesn't mean you need to organize on NextDoor to inundate us with feedback, however. Designating a representative for your HOA to speak on behalf of the group (and clarify they are indeed representing a number of voices) will typically do the trick.


For what it's worth
Take a look at the presentation from the public meeting, if you missed it. Some cool stuff on the SPUI in there. We've also posted the schematic and a video presentation. Check them out so you know the ideas we're coming up with!

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