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Monday, May 21

Mail Bag: Why we use asphalt and not concrete

What work is currently happening at the turnaround by Ramsgate? Currently seeing it closed daily during the day.
Also, huge props to whoever finds the gifs for the blog!
- Kevin
Well, shucks. Thanks! We have fun with the gifs (and other graphics and references). We hope all y'all do as well.
The work at Ramsgate is a maintenance job to repair the concrete retaining wall and the bridge rail at and near the turnaround bridge. The work should be wrapped up by the first part of June. We know it's throwing off a few folks and their commutes - all highway maintenance tends to have that effect - but we're working hard to stay in touch with the USAA communications team to keep them in the loop. They are the top contributor to the traffic at the turnaround, after all, so we're doing what we can to coordinate the work with the good folks over there.


I travel Wurzbach Parkway to work. I see signs that talk about road closures beginning May 14. Can you tell me what to expect next week. Should I use 410 to travel to work?
- Rebecca
Rebecca, we're sorry this answer didn't come in time. We understand the work on Wurzbach has wrapped up at this point.
The closure was on Wurzbach Road and was done by the city of San Antonio, not us. They did a heckuva job getting word out and tried to be sure folks knew in advance of the closure.


Have they determined what caused the longitudinal cracking on I-10? I'm no engineer, but from the photos, it looks like when the contractors excavated material from the roadway edge, they failed to support that edge as it bore the weight of the Jersey barriers. Recent heavy rains probably didn't help either, eroding the exposed base material and surrounding soils.
- Mark
You kind of hit the nail on the head, Mark. The contractor is using, per plans, soil nail walls to support the edge of our excavation. In this instance the equipment for those soil nail walls bogged down and Flatiron's excavation team got a little ahead of things. This is a gamble literally every contractor takes on a project like this, and more than 99 percent of the time it pays off and we see no problems.
As you pointed out the rain didn't help here, and we saw a failure. It wasn't catastrophic, but any failure has potential of becoming that way. We worked hard to prevent the catastrophic failures that could have caused safety hazards.
Here's the silver lining: the delay is extremely minimal. Flatiron lost about a day and a half of production and that's it. On a three-year project that's amazing.
The long-term, permanent fix for the issue is literally designed into the construction plans. When it comes to roadway failures on a construction project, this was pretty much the best possible scenario.


Regarding the nearly complete NE 410/35 project between George Beach and Walzam, I give the project an A-. I no longer fear for my life on south bound lanes as the Rittman traffic no longer tries to zip across 5 lanes of traffic to get to 410 South and traffic seems to move pretty well through that section (the clog is now between Walzam and O'Connor on Northbound).
My only complaints are minor and as you have pointed out before, not necessarily needed. That is the street lights. Many in that section still don't work and one pole in front of Texas Thrift blinks constantly. And having some sodium lights and some LED is kind of tacky. Other than that, great job on this project!
- Jeff
Thanks, Jeff! We'll take it!
It kills us the project took as long as it has to finish, and we've done some internal reviews to see how we can prevent a lot of the delays we've seen on the job for future projects.
Having the new lanes open has been a huge milestone for us - and the big reason for the job in the first place. Well, those and the ramp revisions we've done along the corridor. With a little luck we'll have everything in place and be done - like done done - by mid-summer.
The includes the lights which, as we've said, will be burning as soon as we can get them connected to power. Thanks for your patience on it!


I know there a lot of construction going on 1604 between 90 and 151. Same thing for almost every intersection that have lights except Wiseman. It looks like they are not working on it and look pretty much the same for like couple months. Any idea what going on?
- Daryl
We had some work on retaining walls and drain structures that kept us from digging into Wiseman the way we've done at the other intersections over the last two months.
That will change here in the next couple of weeks, and southbound Loop 1604 will switch onto the frontage road just south of Hwy 151 here in June. That will let Zachry Construction go nuts on the new overpasses. Once the new southbound overpass is ready we'll flip traffic over - Zachry has been working on ways to provide incremental improvements to traffic as they're available (Webber also) on this project, effectively fast-tracking an already aggressive schedule.


The WB I-10 frontage road closure at Old Fred has caused the traffic to back up at the Fair Oaks Ranch bridge almost a 1/4 a mile. Having one exit/entry for 4 major neighborhood was the worst idea ever. Please open up the frontage road M-F 7-9am and 4-6pm. What is being done to alleviate this? This cannot be the norm for a month or more.
- Christina
This closure HAS to be a constant closure. Opening intermittently as you've suggested simply isn't physically possible. To install the pipes we're putting in the ground the road itself was torn up for about 500 feet.
Sundt is working to get this work finished quickly and should have it open by the end of this month. We know it has been really, really rough this month and we thank everyone for their patience.


In your May 1 post, you talked about the traffic lights, but since you were talking about Buckskin, were the lights there? If so, what about the Fair Oaks Parkway lights?
Also, you talked about quadrants and stages, neither of which means anything to me without a definition. Also, the map showed some orange sections of roads with some white markings around them. What do they mean?
- Al Koppen
We are building traffic signals at Buckskin Drive. The construction contract doesn't have us turning them on - that will fall to our traffic operations folks.
Sounds convoluted, we know. It has to do with the warrant for the signal, which you can read all about here. Right now we don't have a warrant for the signal - mostly because the intersection doesn't completely exist. Once the intersection opens we're confident the warrant will be met, but we technically have to wait for that to happen.
Traffic signals are indeed being built at the Fair Oaks Parkway intersection and will become active here in June (based on the current schedule). The signal configuration will be identical to that of the current Ralph Fair intersection.
As for quadrants and stages, we apologize if that graphic wasn't clear enough. Here it is, once again, for your benefit:
The orange areas are the areas where work is being done. You'll note the white/orange markings are construction barricades, indicating the area is blocked off for construction.
Every intersection mimics the x-and-y axis planes we learn about in math class growing up. Each intersection has four quadrants. In the graphic to the left, these are labeled as Quadrant I (quadrant 1), Quadrant II (2), Quadrant III (3) and Quadrant IV (4). The first quadrant is where the X and Y axes both have positively valued coordinates. The second quadrant is where the Y axis coordinate is positive but the X axis coordinate is negative. The third quadrant features two negative coordinates and the fourth quadrant features a positive X axis coordinate and a negative Y axis coordinate.
Most of the time, when we talk of intersection quadrants, we talk in terms of direction so we can keep things simple
 For the intersection of Old Fred/Buckskin Drive and I-10 that means a north quadrant (where the work is happening right now as noted with the long horizontal orange mark), a south quadrant (basically between Buckskin Drive and Indian Hills), an east quadrant (the one that was closed for like four months) and a west quadrant (the one we opened up most recently).
We're sorry this description wasn't clear enough in the first post and hope this explanation helps you keep everything straight.


Regarding the 10 east frontage rds. In particular the frontage road intersection with FM 1516 and Green Rd:
It seems this one-way conversion has greatly inconvenienced people that live and work on Green Road. I often see people going the wrong way on the access road the short distance to 1516 so they can use the underpass to go west on 10. There is also a large dirt area in front of the truck dealership that has become an impromptu thoroughfare to cut over to 1516 from Green Road in addition to cutting through the truck dealership parking lot.
Is there a solution or idea in place to alleviate this inconvenience?
- Marshall
First of all, shame on all those drivers who are making illegal and, more important, unsafe driving decisions. Seriously - all that is to save what, two minutes of drive time? Five?
The long-term fix is to complete the project. That'll open the frontage roads to two lanes (still one-way) and an increased traffic volume here will prevent this heinous behavior. The wider frontage roads will mean effective turnarounds and an easier path to get to the main lanes.
In the meantime, stepped up law enforcement may help those sacrificing the safety of everyone around them for their own convenience make better choices.


I noticed all the new overpass additions/reconstructions have been done with concrete main lane approaches (Old Fred Rd/Buckskin and Boerne Stage/Scenic Loop. Why isn't the entire project from Ralph Fair to La Cantera not being completely converted to concrete? It lasts so much longer with less maintenance. This patchwork appearance looks cheap and out of date.
- Pete
You're absolutely right, Pete. Concrete paving has a better lifespan, requires less maintenance and has a bit simpler repair than traditional asphalt roads.
They're also exponentially more expensive up front.
There's a definite case to be made the cost for concrete paving is lower in the long run - say, over a period of 30 or 50 years - but that doesn't help us get the project done today.
The business savvy folks out there can see the difficulty here. In many industries it might make sense to go with the larger up-front expenditure to save money over the course of time. If we met our break-even point in the next three to five years the concrete option would probably make sense on all our roads.
That's not the case, though. Right now, as inexpensive as asphalt is, the break-even point is decades away.
Bridges and approaches have been and will continue to be done with concrete for a number of reasons. On stretches of road built on top of ground we can use the traditional asphalt, so that's what we're doing.


What happened to the project guide tour for the 410 to 151 flyover that was supposed to be out on Thursday per the report?
- Chris
We did it! We have it posted on YouTube as well. Take a look - although everything you're seeing is now wide open and in use (Chris wrote us a couple of weeks ago).


Someone posted this question on nextdoor.com, and I am curious as well (and would like the correct info instead of people's opinions on social media):
Anyone know why the several miles of asphalt that was laid down between Boerne Stage and La Cantera mall was all ripped out? Also, any idea how far back that puts the construction timelines?
- Leslie
We asked our project staff about this question and they said they don't have a long stretch of asphalt we've torn out on the main lanes of the highway. We think he question is likely a reference to asphalt laid down during a previous project. We've taken out parts of the shoulders to tie the existing road with the expansion to the inside and the outside of the road.
We've also got some spots we're putting some temporary pavement on each side of the road so we can shift existing traffic lanes over to give our crews some elbow room to safely build what we're building.
This project - to widen I-10 between La Cantera Parkway and Ralph Fair Road - is still running on pace to finish up early 2020. We've not had anything that's pushed our construction timeline back - not even the asphalt issue from earlier in the month.