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Thursday, January 11

Private entities and lane closures

Did you know private companies can regulate traffic on state-maintained roads?

Yup - well, sort of.

When organizations contribute large volumes of traffic to the roadway over concentrated timeframes they often elect to assist with traffic control. They have a variety of reasons, into which we will not delve, for tackling the dilemma. Most groups do it pretty darned well, too.

They do this by contracting licensed police officers with authority to control traffic or limit access to the public right-of-way.

You'll see this happen on Sundays near the largest churches in the area. You'll see it weekday mornings or evenings near some of our region's largest employers.

You'll see it happen after every Spurs win. We'd say it happens during losses, but we're not confident there are any (seriously, only two home losses this season?).

These closures all use licensed police officers contracted by the private organization. They're all off-duty but still have the necessary authority to run traffic control without getting any permits through our offices. Most organizations do it really well.

So why bring this up?

One of these closures has stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest with a community on the far west side of Bexar County. These folks use Hwy 211 from FM 1957 to US Hwy 90 and are often stopped by officers controlling traffic into and out of the new Microsoft campus. Those submitting complaints allege these officers are stopping vehicles on Hwy 211 for a single car without regard to the dominant movement. Southbound traffic is apparently backing up all the way to Potranco Road.

We are, as a courtesy to those who've written or called us, reaching out to Microsoft to request they review their traffic control plan. We are also asking the officers use more prudence. That said, these officers hold the authority to do what they are doing and we cannot remove them.

The Citibank campus - across the street from where Microsoft is now building - already brings more than 1,000 employees to this location each day. The officers working traffic control are in place to help the 300-400 construction employees currently on site.
Once that Microsoft building - and the residential development nearby - is done, you should see a significant need for a new traffic signal at the intersection of Hwy 211 and Lambda Drive. Development of this signal is being done by the developer of the Hidden Canyons subdivision and is already underway (Citibank and Microsoft, we hear, are pitching in as well). We don't have a timeline on this signal because it's a private development. We will inspect the work once it's complete but do not control the production schedule.

Take a look at the what's happening - the orange areas are the traffic generators:
Officers will likely continue to control traffic at both driveway locations until the signal is operational.

Why a signal here and not at other locations with officers directing traffic for private organizations? For starters, the increased development along Lambda Drive will warrant the signal. It's also being paid for by the private developer and not through tax dollars.

We are grateful, as an agency, to the organizations who responsibly contract licensed professionals to direct traffic during those peak-volume periods. This practice improves safety - even if it means a slightly slower commute for some - and contributes to an overall stronger transportation system.