Loop 1604 project breaks ground

Loop 1604 groundbreaking

It was so cold that I could feel my brain starting to freeze, but yours truly was standing out in the median of Loop 1604 between Braun and New Guilbeau this morning to witness the groundbreaking of the long-awaited Loop 1604 expressway project.  This $82 million project will extend the existing toll-free expressway cross-section at Bandera Rd. south to Culebra by building overpasses at Braun, New Guilbeau, and Shaenfield and adding continuous access roads and associated entrance and exit ramps.  It is expected to take about 28 months or so to complete.

This project is being developed as a design/build project, which means that work is starting even though the plans are not complete.  Doing so will cut the overall project time considerably.  Typically, a project is completely designed by TxDOT before it is bid.  In a design/build project, however, TxDOT does an initial design, then bids the remainder of the design and construction out to a single contractor.  Once the basic footprint of the project is established, work can start on clearing and grading land and other prep work.  Meanwhile, design continues on the next phase.  Because the design and construction time overlaps, it saves time in the overall development time for the project.  And because the same contractor that is building it also designs it, they can optimize the design for their capabilities and techniques, which also saves time and money.  TxDOT, of course, retains oversight to ensure that the project meets their standards.  This project is the first design/build project TxDOT has done in San Antonio.  (The 281/1604 interchange was also a design/build, but it was let and managed by the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority and Bexar County.)

Some folks may wonder about the destiny of the superstreet that was built in this area– it will be removed as it will no longer be necessary.  When it was built in 2011, it was intended to be a short-term “band-aid” to provide relief until this project could be built.  Back then, it was anticipated that it would be five to 10 years before this project could come to fruition; however, officials were able to take advantage of some funding serendipity to get it funded earlier than expected.

Funding for this project is coming from $55 million in state funds, mostly from a pot of money consisting of Texas Mobility Fund proceeds and accrued savings from other TxDOT projects, as well as $27 million in local Advanced Transportation District funds.

In addition to the Bandera to Culebra stretch, TxDOT included an option to add interchange work at 151.  As you may remember, a previous project to build an underpass for 151 at 1604 was underway back in 2012 when an endangered spider was found in a sinkhole on the project site.  The project was subsequently cancelled and has been undergoing a redesign that will minimize disturbing the spider’s habitat.  If it receives expected federal environmental clearance later this year, TxDOT will exercise the option to add it to this project with estimated completion in late 2017.

Finally, additional funding was announced earlier this year to continue the expressway south to US 90.  An open house took place on March 18th for the next leg of the project running from Culebra/151 to Potranco.

More on this project here:

More pictures from the groundbreaking here:



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