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Wednesday, September 27

Mail Bag: Lp 1604, I-10, FM 1103 and safety

I'm trying to find images, drawing or visual representations on how Loop 1604 and Wiseman is supposed to look like after the construction.
- Guy

We have the materials presented at public meetings posted online, including the schematic of the overall project. Enjoy!

Why are so many electronic message boards being erected along I-10? I count five new ones between Boerne and Kerrville.
- Tim

To be honest, Tim, this was the idea of our folks out in San Angelo. They had been using portable message boards during the winter to key in road conditions updates for drivers. The problem: portable message boards require a guy on-site to update the messages.
Dynamic message boards serve as a very effective means to transmit information to drivers. This is particularly true during major weather events when we have highway obstructions we need to advertise in real time.
For those who remember, we had to close I-10 in various places in West Texas due to ice during storms Kronos and Goliath. The closures created a gridlock scenario with some motorists - particularly big rigs - getting stranded. If we had in place a dynamic messaging system (like we are now installing) at the time the situation could have been mitigated by allowing motorists to get off the highway and detour to other locations. That's what we're about here with this effort.
In fact, we're installing about 30 new signs between Boerne and Sheffield. There are talks of adding signs beyond that - perhaps all the way to El Paso. These signs will be connected to our TransGuide base of operations in San Antonio and be available to the folks in the San Angelo District Operations Center.
The whole project costs us about $3 million. That includes the cost of cameras mounted atop these signs, giving us not only messaging capability but a real-time look at highway and traffic conditions at some pretty remote locations. The end product for you will be not unlike the system of mountain pass cameras used in some states, like Washington.
We should have everything installed and ready for use before winter hits us this year.

I keep seeing damage to the cable guard rails in the median between the lanes of I-10 West from San Antonio to Boerne. Are there any studies or statistics on how many head on collisions they may have prevented? How expensive are they to repair when someone "takes advantage of them?"
- Scott

Cable median barriers are relatively new in the American highway scene - they really came into vogue about a decade ago. Prior to using these cable medians no positive barrier was used, or a type of barrier was used carrying burdensome costs. New York was the first to employ the cable barriers and the Federal Highway Administration posted a 2006 paper extolling their virtues. They've since caught on across the country.
The truth is, every location you see damaged cable is a potential fatality averted. Cross-median collisions (when a vehicle travels across the grass median and strikes an oncoming vehicle, most often head-on) are among the most fatal collisions we see on our highways. The aim of these barriers is preventing these.
Cable barrier is way cheaper to install than concrete is, even if the upkeep is slightly more expensive. Some repair costs - about 20 percent - are offset by insurance claims for us locally.
By the way, we spend somewhere around $400,000 each month (not a typo) on guardrail repairs. That figure includes steel guardrail, crash cushions and cables.

In regards to the expansion project between The RIM and Ralph Fair Road starting September 11th, can we get a detailed plan on how you are planning to minimize the amount of traffic that is invariably going to occur for the next 3 years? I agree we need to do the expansion, but hopefully we learned some lessons from the first I-10 expansion from UTSA to Huebner where the traffic was unbearable and accidents were an all-too-common occurrence. For the sake of everyone's sanity during this time, please tell us you've got something figured out to keep the flow of traffic to a non-road-rage inducing level. You could literally spend an hour getting from Huebner to the RIM during those days, and I don't want to have to do the same again getting from the RIM to RFR!
- Gerard

Well, Gerard, the two projects are pretty much apples and oranges. With the I-10 Huebner project we were adding lanes to the outside (right-hand side) of the highway and we did a lot of work on the ramps. That work on the ramps was a large part of the traffic control issues you saw.
There are a slew of variables that make the comparison a poor one, but we'll keep things simple here.
On the project we're doing now a lot of the work will be done on the inside (left-hand side) and we're not closing any ramps (beyond overnight stuff). We are not reconfiguring any ramps. We are not changing your current traffic alignments or reducing capacity at all.
Honestly, this project is really straightforward and we're out of the way for the most part. Will you see slower traffic? Probably - it's a natural byproduct of the orange signs and barrels. We won't complain about that, ourselves; the slower traffic goes through our office, the safer our workplace is and better our odds of returning home safely each day. But more to your point the daily commute shouldn't be impacted negatively too badly through the project. In fact, you'll see some pretty immediate relief with one new lane (we're building two each way) being opened for your use as soon as early 2019.

What is going on with 1103 Bridge Replacement? You reported on August 8th it was beginning that week. Later delayed until September 5th. Now nothing. Is it now being delayed due to Harvey related repairs?
- Jeff

Work on the FM 1103 overpass officially began September 18 and was delayed for a few reasons - Harvey being one of them.
Those of you not named Jeff, this question was posed twice in a four-week span ... once earlier in August and again just after Harvey hit. We had a few issues pushing us back on the start time, including inconvenient weather patterns and some scheduling gaffes. The good news is a delayed start means little to no impact on drivers.
With work now started the clock is ticking, though. We'll have updates available here as they are pertinent.

When will Military Dr W return to its normal lane configuration?
- Mike

When this traffic shift started the plan was to have things back to normal by September 1. Well, we then got hit with some weather issues in August and had some permitting issues with Bexar County. Then Harvey it. Now we're getting rained on.
Long story short, Mike, we're hoping to have things back to normal by Halloween.
We will have to switch it around one more time to match the intersection to the new southbound frontage road - a task currently anticipated for summer of 2018.

I have seen your advocacy of the "zipper" or late merge. I understand in principle why it should be better than early merging, but I think you neglect to take into consideration two factors that work together to make it impractical in practice. First, there is the law that requires merging traffic to yield. Second is human nature, and the specific driving culture of Texas big cities, which is extremely competitive. Trying to get someone to let you over in ANY situation where you need to change lanes is difficult because people just don't want to give up their position or be behind another car. Add to that in zipper merging the perception that the late merger is "cutting" in front of the line (something most of us were taught was rude since preschool) it's a heavily ingrained sociological problem. Blogs and citing studies won't change that, so what else are you going to do to change the driving culture in Texas?
- Mark

That's a great question, Mark. In short we are still having internal discussions about just how far we want to go as a state to promote the move. As our explanatory post points out some states use fixed and digital highway signs and others have launched full-out awareness campaigns. We aren't sure yet whether we're going to jump onto the bandwagon fully or if we're going to simply advance messaging done by others.
We will point out the "me-first" attitude of too many drivers is not exclusive to Texas; it really is global. The Zipper isn't about being first or not cutting, though - it's about taking turns. And that's a behavior about which even Kindergarteners know well.

Could someone look into the signal timing on the I-10 frontage roads at Dominion Drive? The westbound frontage road has extended green lights in the afternoon to handle the large volume of traffic; as appropriate. However, in the morning, the westbound frontage road still has extended green lights to the detriment of the eastbound frontage roads which now have the largest volume of traffic. This seems way out of balance vis-a-vis the traffic flows.
- Dave

You bet, Dave! We'll be happy to look into this issue and ensure the signal is running optimally vis-à-vis your daily commute (and others).
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