Thursday, January 12

Strategy for the ARP/WWL intersection

A few weeks ago we addressed the several emails, calls and other contacts received regarding the new Hwy 151 overpass at Loop 1604 as well as the intersection of Alamo Ranch Parkway and Westwood Loop. We left that response with a promise to follow up with our planned strategy; that's what this is about.
Again, if you're in the Alamo Ranch area and have had concerns about this intersection, please share this post. We're aware of the use of the NextDoor app and Facebook that happens out there. This would be a great post to share on those or other similar sites.
We fielded a number of suggested solutions for this area. Some of those were really quite good ideas and helped tremendously. Some suggestions were less constructive. We won't address those less constructive ideas, though Texas Highwayman did in one of his posts. He's also got great information on the background of this work and the overall hullabaloo surrounding this intersection.
What we will address, for the sake of brevity, is what we're going to do and why we landed on that solution. Here goes.

Lane alignment, eastbound ARP to eastbound Hwy 151
We had some issues with the two-lane ramp from Alamo Ranch Parkway onto eastbound Hwy 151 involving unclear lane markings. Initially we had two lanes of ARP through Westwood Loop, which tapered down to one lane between that ramp to Hwy 151 and the access road of southbound Loop 1604.
Well, we've already fixed this. If you're in the left lane of ARP through that Westwood intersection you're in a left-only lane. If you're in that right lane, you'll have the option to enter Hwy 151 or continue on to Loop 1604. Again, that striping is already in place. That doesn't help the advanced warning issue, which folks will no doubt raise. Bexar County Public Works is solving that by adding "shields" to the roadway as you approach the Westwood Loop intersection, which should help drivers get in the appropriate lane.

The ARP-WWL intersection itself
Our friends with Bexar County Public Works are already working on the traffic signal at this intersection, and it should be operational by early February.
Why not have the signals ready when we opened the overpass? It's a common question, and deserves a straight answer.
Initially we were planning to have the signal in place for the opening of the overpass. However, private development in the area (ahem, Santikos) caused some issues with the county's design of the intersection. Because of ensuing delays the county turned focus on a signal at the intersection of Shaenfield Road and Wildhorse Parkway. Meanwhile, we weren't able to simply halt our project while issues with the signal plans were figured out.
At any rate, our work progressed while the county worked out issues with the signal. Things actually worked out pretty well and the timing ended up lining up nearly perfectly. The all-way stop that's existed for years will be replaced with a fully signalized intersection within about 8 weeks of the overpass opening.
This work includes some resurfacing of the road, and Bexar County crews will control signal timing and work out traffic alignments at the intersection.

Westbound Hwy 151 into the ARP-WWL intersection
This is, perhaps, one of the largest frustrations for folks using the new roadway and intersection. There are several issues to address here, so we'll try to take them one at a time.
First, the approach to the ARP-WWL intersection itself. This has been a mess as folks ignore pavement markings to drive pretty much wherever they feel to drive. We have several drivers jumping over three lanes without much warning to get where they want. This happens particularly as those coming off Hwy 151 want to turn right onto WWL or those coming off the Loop 1604 frontage road are turning left toward the theater. Confusing? Yeah, it's because this is not supposed to happen. Yet folks are doing it anyway. Frustrating for us, for sure, and unnecessarily dangerous for others.
We already revamped the pavement markings, painting solid lines to tell folks they're not supposed to change lanes. Since that's not apparently getting it done, we're going to add Tuff Curbs with delineator paddles to keep cars from turning the intersection into a free-for-all in the future.
As for that whole left-turn only lane ... it's not going away. We're working on some advanced notice system, but we have to take care to not interfere with the lane that goes to the ramp connecting to the southbound frontage road of Loop 1604. We don't have room to make that left-only lane an optional left-turn lane; that would mean three lanes pushing through Westwood Loop and onto Alamo Ranch Parkway. ARP only has two lanes, and isn't going to get that third lane any time soon. Even adding a 1,500-foot stretch of a third lane isn't practical; it's more safe to have that traffic merging before the intersection than after.
The good news: once the signal is functional the pain of that stop sign will dissipate significantly.

Overall connectivity
We're finding a number of people are having a tough time finding a way to get where they're going as Hwy 151 reaches Loop 1604 and turns into Alamo Ranch Parkway. We have our traffic engineers looking to evaluate our wayfinding signs (those big green ones that tell you how to get where you're going). That should help some realize getting to Culebra is easier if you go the "old" way. Some things we simply can't sign, though.
For instance, if you're coming from Culebra Road or Loop 1604 and you want to get to the theater, do not use Alamo Ranch Parkway. Santikos has a driveway on the southbound frontage road of Loop 1604 just after ARP. Use that!
If you're planning a stop at Target or Lowes on your way home via Hwy 151, go to Culebra Road and Loop 1604 and turn around. It'll actually be a ton faster (not to mention safer) for you.
Headed to Wal-Mart from Hwy 151? Get on northbound Loop 1604, turn around at Shaenfield and you'll have an easy run to Wal-Mart.
If you're going to Kallison Ranch and that area along FM 471, why not bypass that Culebra traffic? You can continue straight on Alamo Ranch Parkway all the way to Roft Road or Alamo Parkway. Alamo Parkway has a signal that will help you get that left turn onto FM 471 and you'll be safely on your way.
And don't forget you can reach HEB by simply exiting for northbound Loop 1604 and keeping to the right. Pretty simple drive, really.

Is the intersection safe?
The answer to this question is, unequivocally, yes! The county has had stop signs at this location for years. It's been an all-way stop for years. Folks driving the road know it's an all-way stop.
Some have pointed at a tragic crash the week before Christmas as evidence the intersection is unsafe. The Bexar County Sheriff's Office has yet to release its findings on this crash, but we can confidently say the condition of the intersection and the construction situation had absolutely no contribution to the cause of that crash. It's just that simple.
The intersection is as safe as the drivers using it - which is the best that can be said of literally every road on the entire planet. We remain confident in that.

The future of ARP
Will we ever see an overpass at this intersection? Great question - one we don't have an answer for ... and we won't have one until ARP is fully developed, which could take several years to accomplish and is mostly in the hands of private developers who continue to build up the Alamo Ranch area.