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Monday, April 24

Traffic signal or no traffic signal: Emory Peak edition

The decision to place traffic signals anywhere on our state highway system does come with uniform guidance, as we've discussed before. Our post today doesn't involve placing a signal, though - this is a decision to remove a signal.

The fracas
We continue to have inquiries from the folks living in the Laurel Mountain subdivision trickle in about the fate of an existing traffic signal at the intersection of Emory Peak and Loop 1604.
The whole issue involves the traffic signal at Emory Peak and Loop 1604 - which will be removed when the expansion of Loop 1604 is complete and the new frontage roads are in play.
This is not imminent. We have a lot of work remaining before we reach this stage of the project and you won't likely see this change for another year or more.
We've made offers to the HOA leadership to come and explain the situation and curb the questions, but have so far not been invited to any of their meetings. We're kind of hoping this response - a version of standard responses we've been providing - helps answer the questions and the confusion. If you're in this neck of the woods, please post this to your neighborhood's Facebook page or NextDoor thread.

Some background
The traffic signal at Emory Peak was always considered a temporary fix at this intersection, placed when a private developer began to build the subdivision at this location.
When Loop 1604 was initially expanded from a two-lane roadway to a four-lane divided highway (as it is today), Emory Peak didn't exist. We did have plans for future overpass locations - those plans are now being fulfilled with overpasses at Marbach Road and at Dove Canyon/Falcon Wolf.
When the development came in at Emory Peak we were able to work out a plan with the developer to include a temporary crossing and traffic signal. The temporary nature of this intersection was made very clear to the developer at the time, and they knew the signal would be removed when Loop 1604 was expanded to an expressway.
We trusted the developer and real estate agents to disclose this information to the prospective buyers as they bought homes in this neighborhood, though the information would have been readily available to any potential buyer who simply asked us.

Overpass locations
When we lay out an expressway, such as Lp 1604, our engineers and planners take careful consideration of overpass or underpass (our engineers call them grade separations) locations. The rules our guys work under call for grade separations to be spaced between 1 mile and 2 miles, no more or no less. This allows us to provide entrance ramps and exit ramps between the two grade separations.
The distance between Marbach Road and Emory Peak is only about a half-mile, while the distance between Marbach and Dove Canyon is right at a mile.
Grade separation locations are also supposed to serve intersecting cross streets to help provide overall connectivity on each side of the expressway as part of a continuous roadway network.
(Whew ... a lot of engineerese in there, eh?)
The bottom line: the cross streets at grade separations need to help drivers get places beyond an immediate location.
Emory Peak is a roadway that dead ends into a subdivision and does not serve a regional east-west transportation need - mostly because it's so close proximity to Marbach and Dove Canyon. Well, that and the developer plotted the subdivision to create a dead-end street.
Meanwhile, Dove Canyon is slowly being extended all the way out to Arcadia Path at Potranco Road (we do think of what things will look like in the future!). When Dove Canyon finally intersects with Arcadia Path, as the master connectivity plan shows, the wisdom of this location will shine through.
The master transportation plan calls for this connection between Dove Canyon and American Lotus, eventually connecting Dove Canyon to Arcadia Path.

Your situation is actually better this way
If we built an overpass at Emory Peak we would not be able to provide a northbound exit to Emory Peak. All northbound traffic exiting Loop 1604 to Emory Peak would exit Marbach, sit through the traffic signal, travel the northbound frontage road then sit at the Emory Peak signal before finally making a left turn onto Emory Peak.
Sound exhausting? We thought so, too. By the way, you'd have the same situation with southbound traffic - exiting Dove Canyon, running through the intersection, etcetera.
For an example of what that could look like, think of southbound Loop 1604 headed to New Guilbeau (but keep in mind New Guilbeau does meet the criteria of improving overall connectivity Emory Peak fails to reach).
The project now going creates a great situation for Emory Peak. Let's explain:
  1. If you were traveling from Bandera Road, headed south on LP 1604, you will take the Marbach exit then move over to the right lane and make a right turn into Emory Peak. You won't even have to go through a traffic signal. Just exit, scoot over and turn. It's all safe and smooth.
  2. If you leave Emory Peak and want to get to U.S. Hwy 90, you will make a right turn from Emory Peak onto the southbound frontage road, move over to the left lane and get on the entrance ramp and on to the new direct connector to U.S. 90 we're building. Again, you won't need to go through traffic signals.
  3. If you are returning from U.S. 90 and heading back to Emory Peak you will exit Dove Canyon, take the turnaround at Dove Canyon and head down the southbound frontage road to make a right turn onto Emory Peak. You will not have to go through a traffic signal.
  4. If you leave Emory Peak and want to head north to Bandera Road you'll turn right onto the southbound frontage road, use the turnaround at Marbach, then enter the Lp 1604 main lanes from the northbound frontage road. You won't need to go through a traffic signal.
Because all the through traffic on Lp 1604 will be on the main lanes the traffic on the southbound frontage road at Emory Peak isn't going to be nearly what it is today. It will be easier to turn into and out of Emory Peak when we're all done.
By the way: did you notice a trend with the above bullet points? If not, we'll spell it out:
You won't need to wait at a signalized intersection.

Take a look
If you are having a tough time visualizing what we've discussed, take a look at the project layout and 3D rendering posted here.