29 Jun 2015, 11:18am
Construction and closures Roads Safety:
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Comments Off on Ribbon cut on Fred-Med project

Ribbon cut on Fred-Med project

After nearly 20 years in the making, TxDOT, COSA, and South Texas Medical Center officials celebrated the completion of the Medical Drive underpass at Fredericksburg Road this morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and opened the new lanes to traffic a short time later.

The nearly $15 million project was primarily done for safety, namely allowing ambulances quicker access to the Medical Center from I-10, bypassing the oft-congested Fredericksburg/Medical intersection.  As if on cue, the wailing siren from an emergency vehicle trying to navigate the intersection above interrupted the ceremony.  After the ribbon was cut, an ambulance and EMS squad truck were the first vehicles to “officially” use the underpass.

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24 Jan 2015, 9:30pm
Communities Data visualizations
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Comments Off on Diverse neighborhoods really do make a difference

Diverse neighborhoods really do make a difference

Odds of rising to another income level are notably low in certain cities

Image of upward mobility data visualization by New York Times

Community planners have long touted the benefits of diverse neighborhoods. And they employed lots of anecdotes along with targeted studies to spread their enthusiasm.

Now a study, released in 2013 and updated last year, pulls together millions of records to give researchers powerful new insights on what drives a person’s chances of rising above the station of their birth.

For the first time, there’s enough data to compare upward income mobility across metropolitan areas, according to the New York Times. This allows consideration of local factors in a deep way that previous studies could not do — like where people live.

The story says upward mobility tends to be higher:

  • When poor families are more dispersed among mixed-income neighborhoods
  • When there are more two-parent households
  • With better elementary and high schools
  • When there’s more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups

Also, the story says, while regions with larger black populations had lower upward-mobility rates, researchers’ analysis suggests this was not primarily because of race. For instance, both white and black residents of Atlanta had low upward mobility.

Be sure to check out the online story, if anything to probe the data visualizations.

19 Mar 2014, 4:47pm
Construction and closures Roads:
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Comments Off on Loop 1604 West expansion continues

Loop 1604 West expansion continues

Loop 1604 meeting

TxDOT held an open house on March 18th to show their plans to improve Loop 1604 from Culebra south to Potranco.  That section of the loop is currently a four-lane divided highway with signalized intersections at SH 151, Wiseman, Military, and Potranco.  This project will upgrade that section of the loop to an expressway by adding overpasses at Wiseman, Military, and Potranco and building access roads and associated entrance and exit ramps.  The intersection of SH 151, although technically included within the project limits (mainly for signage purposes), would not see any actual changes with this project (more on that later.)  The $69 million project is set to begin in about a year and will take about 2 1/2 years to complete.

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19 Mar 2014, 1:07pm
Construction and closures Roads:
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Comments Off on What’s going on at I-10 and DeZavala?

What’s going on at I-10 and DeZavala?

If you’ve traversed I-10 at DeZavala recently, you may have noticed that the center divider is being removed.  Many folks have noticed and I’ve gotten the question more than once asking why.  A few have even asserted that they’re ripping out brand new barrier that was just re-built recently.

First off, the barrier that’s being removed is not new.  Yes, there have been several sections of barrier that were re-built in that same project area recently, but all of that was south of the Fredericksburg/Woodstone area.  You can tell the new barrier because it’s still the raw, dark gray color.  The old barrier is tan, and that’s what’s being removed at DeZavala.

Now to answer the “why”.  I-10 is being widened in that area, and consequently the DeZavala overpass needs to be widened to carry those additional lanes.  But it turns-out that the overpass also needs to raised a few feet in the process.  This means that they’ll have to tear-down the old overpass.  In order to do that, traffic will need to be shifted from one side of the overpass to the other while half of the bridge is demolished and re-built.  Therefore, the divider is being removed to allow for that traffic switch as well as the fact that it will need to be removed anyway since the bridge it sits on is being replaced.

15 Mar 2014, 9:43pm
Automobiles Commuting Data visualizations Travel
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Comments Off on Where to find alternative fuel stations in Texas

Where to find alternative fuel stations in Texas

If you’re going to invest in an alternative-fuel vehicle, you might want to check where you can fill up. The city you’re in makes a difference.

For those relying on biodiesel, you’re good to go in Austin and not so bad in San Antonio, recent data from DriveBiodiesel.net shows.

Dallas has a broad mix of E85 and natural gas pumps, according to E85Locator.net and CNGLocator.net. Houston has a decent spread of E85 stations.

West Texas? One station, in Midland. Natural gas.

One thing’s for sure, if you want to take a road trip in an alternative-fuel vehicle, plan well. Some places will leave you with fumes.

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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.

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11 Nov 2013, 10:02pm
Data visualizations Gas taxes Laws and policies Roads Transit
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Comments Off on Texas drivers help pay tab for roads in other states

Texas drivers help pay tab for roads in other states

When you look at how much Texas drivers hand over to Washington and how much comes back, it’s easy to feel like the feds don’t like us much.

Federal officials do not “directly” return a whopping 78 percent of fuel and vehicle taxes collected in Texas. That’s second highest among states; behind Iowa with its 84% bye-bye rate and well ahead of third-place Florida.

Unfortunately, though, there’s a bigger untold story here. Officials invested more than half of those collections into projects straddling one or more states. And the data doesn’t show how those amounts were distributed among states.

So the 78% no-return likely isn’t as bad as it looks. Texas probably received more. Still, hover over the interactive map above and you’ll see a wide range of give and take, including Alaska’s 60 percent gain.

The data, from fiscal 2011, is the latest from the Federal Highway Administration. I saved it to a CSV file and used D3.js, with an assist from ColorBrewer.js and some custom javascript, to display it here. Have fun.

Texas road-rage accidents dashboard

When are drivers likely to lose their cool, to the point of rage?

I figured the hours after bars closed on weekends were the hot times. But that’s not true, according to a state road-rage database obtained by the Express-News.

I put together an online dashboard to query the database, which is hosted as a Google Fusion Table. It’s a great way to get a quick snapshot of layered filters, such as age, gender, ethnicity, days, times, etc.

Try it out below. For convenient side-by-side comparisons, click the “Compare Two Views” button under the dashboard.

I gleaned a few interesting insights myself.

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2 Aug 2013, 10:24am
Gas taxes Roads:
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Comments Off on Texas replacing paved roads with gravel

Texas replacing paved roads with gravel

Usually, when a  road is riddled with potholes, the solution is to patch or repave.

But in South Texas, where big trucks servicing the state’s latest oil boom are pulverizing pavement, the state’s answer is to tear up the asphalt and return the roads to gravel. Posted speed limits then have to drop from 55 mph to 30.

While the gas and oil boom is boosting state revenues by some billion dollars a year, the Texas Department of Transportation still largely relies on a two-decade old gas tax that inflation has cut in half. Lawmakers just can’t find the gumption to raise the tax, and don’t sound confident about other possibilities.

With the Legislature going into a special session to tackle the problem, KLRN TV’s Rick Casey lays out the issues in this 4-minute video. Here’s the text.

8 Jul 2013, 10:42pm
Automobiles Commuting Data visualizations Oil and gas prices Travel
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Comments Off on Record high gas prices changing how Americans drive

Record high gas prices changing how Americans drive

With wild swings in gas prices pushing ever higher, U.S. drivers are slowly curbing their habits.

Regular-grade gas averaged more than $3.60 a gallon nationwide in 2011 and 2012. It’s never been so high, even when adjusted for inflation. The last records were set during the Iran hostage crisis three decades ago.

High prices, along with recessions, have tugged at America’s driving addiction, bringing down mileage in 1979 and again in recent years. But unlike gas prices, which can arc 40 percent in a year, driving habits die hard.

The difference jumps out when you juxtapose the data in a graphic. Mashing data like this can sometimes be confusing when you have two separate axes, but I think there’s an interesting pattern here.

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