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Wednesday, April 26

Mail Bag: Insurance claims, future plans on a few corridors and more

A quick slog of questions for you this week ... as a reminder, we only take a look at emails submitted through the blog every week or two. If you have a more pressing question regarding an issue right away, reach out to us directly.

I see you have been getting a lot of questions lately about redesigning ramps because drivers aren't paying attention and smash guardrails on a frequent basis. Does TxDOT have the power to bill the at fault party or their insurance for this damage? I am not one for government regulation but if this law isn't on the books it should be. Drivers that cause this damage should be responsible for paying for it.
- Zane

The short answer, Zane, is yes. When part of our highway system is damaged - guardrail, a signal pole or control cabinet, light pole, crash cushion, whatever - we file a claim against the drivers' insurance. In that, we run the same gamble any driver does the driver may or may not be insured, and insurance companies must determine fault ... but we do go through the claims process on each collision causing damage to our road system.

Congestion on I-35 between new Braunfels and San Antonio has been steadily increasing, particularly during summers, spring breaks, weekends, and holidays. The slowdowns seem to be near key exits, such as Solms Road (southbound) and FM 1103 (northbound). Are there any plans for congestion relief in this area, such as additional lanes?
- John
The short answer is we always have a plan for expansion, but that doesn't really do us any good here. We have a number of ideas to help, each tailored to a different budget level. Operational improvements, like ramp revisions that put the congestion onto frontage roads rather than on the main lanes, can help as a relatively inexpensive ($150 million to do the whole corridor) stop-gap option. We're working on plans to do that, but you'll likely see work happen in bite-sized pieces as money becomes available.
As far as expanded capacity ... the big plan is to nearly double capacity between New Braunfels and downtown San Antonio. This effort would cost more than $2 billion, and we've simply not identified viable funding sources yet. These new lanes would be elevated, making I-35 a two-level highway that whole stretch.
Why not an in-between? Because, honestly, we don't have much room to grow out there. The topography and alignment of lanes is such that we just don't have anywhere to build a bunch of new lanes.
Efforts to make these plans - and see them through - are going through the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Will the exit and entrance ramps for FM 1103 be changed as part of the proposed bridge project? At the public meeting TxDOT representatives described moving them back further and creating a new exit-entrance ramp alignment.
- Randy

We do have plans to move those ramps ... but that won't be happening with the current $7.2 million bridge replacement project starting in a few weeks (note the expansion of FM 1103 itself isn't happening until 2019). As we said to John above the operational improvements are being planned now as work for later on, probably after 2020. We'll prioritize intersections to be improved, and there's little doubt FM 1103 will be near the top of our list.

When will the Loop 410 at SH 151 project be done enough to reopen the Leon Creek Greenway under 410?
- Mica

Williams Brothers is currently saying we should have the greenway back open by the end of summer. Weather has been a tough challenge with the bridge structures we're working on over Leon Creek and we're trying to find ways to recover some of our time there.

Are all the frontage roads between San Antonio and Fair Oaks (or Scenic Loop Road) going to be one direction when the construction is all said and done? Will Boerne Stage Road and/or Dominion Drive get dedicated exits if you are eastbound on I-10 (coming from Kerrville, for example)?
- Tim
You got it, Tim! We're trying to convert all the frontage roads in the urbanized area to one-way, so when we're all said and done all those frontage roads will indeed be one-way. Heck, we're not done yet, either. We have plans to continue what we're doing all the way out to Boerne ... but it'll be a few years before we get that far out.
Eastbound traffic will have a dedicated exit to Dominion Drive where the old on-ramp was - it was opened up a couple of weeks ago (Tim wrote us last month). We don't have room to get one in there for Boerne Stage Road, though. That traffic will continue to use the Ralph Fair exit or use the Dominion Drive exit and turn around.

On the March 27th update on Old Fredericksburg Road, there was a link that showed a picture of an entrance ramp from the access road to west bound I-10 between Old Frederickburg Road and Fair Oaks Parkway. However, a highway exit ramp has been built where the picture shows the entrance ramp was going to be. Is that going to be permanent or will that ramp be replaced at a later time?
- John
I see on the schematic between Old Fredericksburg Road and Fair Oaks Parkway there is an onramp before FOP. Currently, an exit ramp has been built here which has not yet opened. Is the exit ramp temporary? Can you confirm what the final configuration will be, on or off ramp?
- Judy
To be honest our communications team had the same question when we took a look at it in the field as well. We're glad you all asked.
The ramps you see built are temporary ramps for detours that will be used when we have to shut down I-10 at Fair Oaks Parkway - weekend closures only, mind you - to set bridge beams or demolish the old bridge. Those ramps allow traffic to exit onto the frontage road, continue through the FOP intersection and re-enter the highway with minimal impact.
Once those closures are all done, we'll demolish the temporary ramps and the new ramps will be built (remember: we won't be converting the frontage roads to one-way between Old Fred and Fair Oaks until the new bridge is in action with a turnaround).
We don't have dates for the first of these closures (we anticipate ten full closures of I-10 before we're all finished, between now and the end of next year), but as soon as we do we'll shout them from the mountain tops.

Alamo Ranch Parkway currently loops around around Del Webb Blvd area. Is there future expansion to have Alamo Ranch parkway to run into Tally Road or beyond to (future) Highway 211?
- Deep
The short answer: yes, the master plan shows for Alamo Ranch Parkway to run beyond to a future Highway 211. That won't be built by TxDOT, though (ARP isn't a TxDOT road). The extension will be built by private developers as it's been built to date.
As for Hwy 211 ... we're working with Bexar County on that one. We're still working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to identify an appropriate footprint for the extension. We don't have a timeframe for when an opinion from USFWS is available; we expected to have something from them about four months ago and are still waiting.

On westbound Hwy 90 at FM 211, is anything going to be done about the dangers of the residents at The Mansions apartment complex entering a 70 mph highway? Someone needs to remind them that the shoulder is not an acceleration lane.
As I drive Hwy 90 daily and need to exit FM 211 I continually see residents leaving the complex and driving the shoulder at a slow rate of speed while highway drivers have to slam on the brakes not to hit them. Someone needs to remind them the shoulder is not a driving lane. It's a poor location choice for a giant apartment complex and understandably they have a difficult time leaving, but I shouldn't be in danger because they can't figure out how to enter the highway legally.
- garmel23

Actually, Garmel123, this behavior is perfectly legal and the residents of The Mansions should be praised for opting to use an improved shoulder - particularly one as large as what they have at this location - rather than jump right into active traffic and making a bigger issue. For clarification on the legality of this maneuver, you can see Texas Code 545.058, or simply read what the Texas Highwayman has on the topic.
We do understand the location is difficult for drivers. However, we are required to allow ingress and egress into a property here (the property is not connected to another road). The proximity of the driveway to the exit ramp to Hwy 211 would probably make an acceleration lane equally flustering for folks sharing your commute path.
However, in the long run, the problem will be solved when we extend frontage roads on US 90 beyond Loop 1604 through to Hwy 211. This would be done as part of a $90 million project that's penciled in to begin around 2023 and expands US 90 to a six-lane highway (adds one lane each way) between Hwy 211 and I-410.

What is the story with the resurfacing project on US 281 between Loop 410 and I-35? They look like they still need to finish a few lanes, in a few spots. Another project between 410 and Rhapsody already finished in just a few weeks.
- Scott
The scale of work is very different, with more in-depth work between I-35 and I-410. What's more, there is a lot more roadway between I-35 and I-410 than between I-410 and Rhapsody, and the work between I-410 and Rhapsody isn't actually wrapped up yet.