Tuesday, January 23

Mail Bag: Traffic signals, Spring Branch Post Office, a whoopsie and more.

This is somewhat random, but I am curious how TxDOT decides whether a new traffic signal will have metal arms or a cable to hold up traffic lights.
For example, the new light at SH 46 and FM 758 in New Braunfels utilizes cables, while the recent install less than a mile up the road at Avery has metal arms. I notice similar discrepancies at FM 1101 and FM 306. I find the metal arms more attractive, but is there a huge difference in installation and maintenance costs? Any consideration for consistency along the same road or within a city?
- John

You didn't ask the question outright but others may ask; we posted before on how we determine when or where to install a signal. If you've not read it yet, John, you may find in it an interesting (hopefully) read to set the foundation of a conversation on signal installation.
Down to your actual questions. Determination between use of span wires or mast arms most often boils down to engineer discretion. They have a number of options they can use for a number of reasons. More often than not it boils down to money, though. Using span wires saves us about 20 percent over the mast arms and this is an easy way we're able to trim costs to keep a project under budget.
Existing electrical wiring plays a factor in the design; if the wires are in the air at a particular location it's highly unlikely we'll use mast arms. The last major factor is the plan for future development. If we know one of the intersecting streets is to be expanded in the relatively near future we may choose the span wires. This helps during construction and makes arranging the intersection a lot simpler for our contractors.
Hopefully that helps!

With all of the major construction taking place on I-10 and Foster Road area, many drivers (including me) are starting to avoid the congestion on I-10 by taking FM 1346 to I-410. I live in St Hedwig and travel FM 1346 to 410 daily and then continue my drive to the NW side of town for work. Since more traffic has decided to go FM 1346, this has created a serious bottleneck, sometimes a mile long of cars waiting to go through an old 4 way stop design (flashing yellow light). What puzzles me is that if I turn on Foster Road to head back towards I-10, there is presently a traffic light at a non busy intersection of an industrial complex. Do you have any immediate plans to put a traffic light at this busy intersection to help ease some of the congestion that exists daily, and not to mention the safety factor of all this as well? There is also a new beginning stage of a multi-home subdivision at that intersection. Please let me know, thank you.
- Wesley
It sounds like a temporary situation has been developed at that intersection resulting from folks seeking ways around a construction project, and we would need to be sure that situation won't disappear when the project on I-10 finishes and traffic returns to its old pattern.
As we mentioned above we have strict requirements dictating when and where we install signals.
The signal on Foster Road at Cal Turner is not on a state-maintained road. While local municipalities typically turn to our Texas Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices for guidance, that isn't always the case. You'll have to reach out to Bexar County or the city of San Antonio to determine what factors played into approval of that signal.
We've added the intersection of FM 1346 and Foster Road to our list of intersections needing a warrant study - we'll see what the actual data looks like. If a signal is indeed warranted we'll install it.

Any update when 281 north bound lanes at the Spring Branch Post Office will start up to eliminate the bypass around the Spring Branch Post Office?
- Ray

As of the moment we're writing this answer we expect to receive bids on this project in March (yes, this year) and should be underway with construction by mid-summer. The nearly $800,000 project should last no more than a year.

A few days ago a question was posted regarding the I-35 project and the concern about the left lane on northbound 35 before Walzem. The answer given was that with the work over the weekend the project should be completed. The northbound lanes still have the issue where the left lane disappears at Walzem. There appears to be room for the lane to continue but it essentially ends. Is this going to be the final project? Thank you for your time.
- Brian

You're absolutely right. We were operating on old information here in our public information office and the work we had on our schedules didn't end up happening. We are told it will happen within the next month and a half, opening up that lane that's sorely needed and giving drivers the final configuration they've been waiting about four years to enjoy.

Why was the exit ramp from Loop 1604 west to Gold Canyon closed and removed during the direct connect project?
- Marshall

That was about safety and redundancy more than anything. Bear with us here.
We'll start with a look at the layout of Loop 1604 between Gold Canyon and Redland Road. At that stretch there are three lanes - two normal through lanes and an auxiliary lane at the far right of the road.
That auxiliary lane ties the entrance ramp from Redland to the exit ramp to US 281. Adding an extra ramp would add another conflicting traffic pattern to an area already laden with three directions of traffic.
Hopefully that makes sense. If not ... let us know and we'll give it another go.

Has there been any mention of possibly opening sections of the new I-10 lane expansion between the RIM and Ralph Fair as they're completed? Or will the lanes open once the entire project is completed?
- Mike

Glad you asked. The plan here is to open the lanes as they're finished - so an incremental opening. This means about halfway through the project we'll have three lanes in each direction - all general purpose, open to everyone.
At the end of the project we'll open up that HOV lane in each direction, making I-10 four lanes each direction between Ralph Fair Road and Loop 1604.
It seemed like a good idea to us at the time, and we are going to work hard to ensure it goes well in practice.
By the way, that first incremental gift is still about a year away from happening ... but you'll see our crews working to prepare the overpasses for expansion over the next several weeks.

When is FM 1376 in Kendall county repaired and ditches along shoulders repaired. With the increase in traffic of large vechiles moving over is not an option; the washouts would cause blow outs.
- Olin

Thanks for letting us know about the issue, Olin. We don't have any plans on the books for reconstruction of the road at the moment, but we'll pass your note along to our planners and maintenance crews to see if we can get it on the list!