US 281 superstreet finished!

Workers completed the final intersection on the US 281 superstreet this past weekend.  Initial anecdotes on the superstreet’s Facebook page have been favorable, with most people reporting significant improvements in their commute times.  However, there are apparently still a few flies in the ointment, including an apparent surge of people now using Encino Rio to avoid having to make the Evans Road turnaround.  There have also been some sporadic reports of driver confusion, which is to be expected.  And today there were reports that the morning rush hour had longer-than-usual delays, which may either be a fluke, a result of ongoing tweaking, or perhaps a surge of latent demand, i.e. motorists who were taking alternate routes suddenly choosing to go back to 281 to take advantage of the improvements.  But the preliminary results look encouraging and, as is always the case with these things, it will take some time for traffic patterns to stabilize as people learn the new configuration and optimize their own routes.  Also, engineers will continue tweaking things over the next few weeks.  With yesterday being a holiday, today’s evening rush hour and the peak driving periods over the next couple of weeks will really be the key in determining whether the project can be deemed a success, and ARMA plans to do a quantitative before-and-after analysis to objectively determine the effects.

That said, no improvement is ever perfect.  There are always trade-offs, and this project is no exception.  The folks coming from east of US 281 in the mornings are probably the ones inconvenienced the most by these changes.  Hopefully, the benefits for everyone will outweigh any drawbacks.  Time will tell.

If you use US 281 regularly, please post a comment about whether the superstreet has helped!  I’ll be headed out there this afternoon to see for myself.

Loop 1604 superstreet approved

The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority announced late yesterday that they had received federal environmental approval for their planned Loop 1604 super-street project.  That project, which will build two super-street intersections (one each at New Gilbeau and Shaenfield) as well as improvements to the intersection at SH 151, is now expected to start construction in January 2011 and be complete by August.  You can read my previous discussion on the planned improvements here.  Work on the Braun Rd. intersection improvements was recently completed and has resulted in a substantial reduction in congestion.  In fact, my wife told me yesterday to extend kudos to those responsible for it!

Meanwhile, after weeks of rain, crews were finally able to complete work on the second of four super-street intersections on US 281.  The Marshall Rd. intersection was completed this past weekend leaving the Stone Oak/TPC Pkwy. and Evans Rd. intersections left to do.

Related links:

First super-street intersection to open Monday

After yesterday’s disheartening news about the US 281/Loop 1604 interchange, I have a bit of good news today.  Earlier this week, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA) announced that the first intersection in the US 281 super-street project will be completed and open to traffic on Monday morning.

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AGUA files suit to stop 281/1604 interchange

In what really isn’t a surprise (at least to me), the enviro-wackos at Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas (AGUA) have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the planned US 281/Loop 1604 interchange project, which would build the first four direct connectors at that intersection.  According to an early Express-News report, AGUA claims that the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA) didn’t kowtow to their demands, so they had no choice but to file a lawsuit.

Whatever. 

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Loop 1604 “super-street” previewed

1604ss_thumbLate last month, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority held a public meeting to show plans for a super-street and other related improvements on Loop 1604 West.  (My vacation started immediately after the meeting, thus the reason I’m just now getting around to writing this.)  At this time, the plans include super-street intersections at New Guilbeau and at Shaenfield and ancillary improvements at Braun and at SH 151 (with work on the former now underway.)  Here are the details of those planned improvements.

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Terri vs Bruce

Bruce Davidson, one of members of the Express-News’ editorial board, wrote a spot-on editorial in yesterday’s paper about how the root cause of toll roads is the Legislature’s and Governor’s resistance to increasing the gas tax.  His editorial essentially says not to blame the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA) because they’re just playing the hand they’ve been dealt and that, in reality, they are working to find funding for 281 and other projects “wherever they can get it.”

Of course, the response out of southern Comal County was nearly instantaneous.  more »

Latest US 281 public meeting tomorrow

Artist's rendering of possible elevated expressway at 281 and Evans

Artist's rendering of possible elevated expressway at 281 and Evans

The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority will be holding the third public meeting on its Environmental Impact Statement for the US 281 North corridor tomorrow evening (Thursday).  This meeting will allow ARMA to share the latest status of the study and get input from the public on the remaining proposals.  The process has whittled-down the list of options to three viable proposals:

  • Overpasses: This would build overpasses on US 281 at major intersections.  This proposal provides the least increase in capacity but has the lowest cost.  However, as a toll-free option, funding would need to be found.  Also, because the overpasses would increase travel speeds, many side streets and driveways would possibly need to be eliminated for safety and operational reasons.
  • Expressway: This option would build a conventional expressway with six to eight main lanes and six lanes of frontage roads.  The new expressway main lanes could be toll-free, tolled, or managed.
  • Elevated expressway: This proposal would leave the existing 281 mostly in place as-is and would build four to six elevated expressway lanes above the existing lanes.  South of Stone Oak, the elevated lanes would be on each side of 281, much like the double-decked expressways downtown; north of Stone Oak, the elevated lanes would run along the west side of the existing lanes.  Access ramps connecting to the existing 281 would be provided at strategic locations.  Just as with the conventional expressway option, the new elevated lanes could be toll-free, tolled, or managed.

In addition, any final proposal will also consider bus and park & ride facilities, pedestrian and bike improvements, growth and demand management, and Intelligent Transportation Systems (e.g. TransGuide).  All of the options also consider reserving an envelope for a future high-capacity transit option, such as HOV lanes or light-rail.  One option that had been carried forward previously– the overpasses coupled with additional expansions of Blanco and Bulverde Roads– is recommended to be dropped because of a number of factors.

Each of the options to be carried-forward has strengths and weaknesses.  The next phase of the study will further analyze each to determine which has the most pros and least cons.

The meeting will begin with an open house from 5:30-7pm, followed by a presentation from 7-7:30 and small breakout group sessions thereafter.  It will take place at the Summit Christian Center at 2575 Marshall Road (the same place where the Super Street meeting was held last year.)  More information, including advance copies of the presentation and a map of the meeting location, is available here.

No takers on US 281 comparison study

After last October’s contentious MPO meeting where a motion to remove all toll options for US 281 and Loop 1604 was voted down, MPO policy board members voted to have a study done comparing the toll and non-toll options for 281. 

Nobody wanted the job.

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Loop 1604 “super-street” approved

Diagram of a typical super street intersection (KY DOT)

Diagram of a typical super street intersection (KY DOT)

Just yesterday, I mentioned that plans for a Loop 1604 super-street would be announced soon, and indeed the project was announced today at a Bexar County Commissioners Court meeting where the court approved kicking-in $900,000 of Advanced Transportation District funds to help pay for the $7.4 million project.  The remaining $6.5 million will come from federal stimulus funds.

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“Whoever put traffic lights on Loop 1604 needs to be punched”

The oft-maligned intersection of Loop 1604 at Braun Rd.

The oft-maligned 1604/Braun intersection

Well, once again, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here.  I’ve been working on what I think will be an exciting new addition to my website (stay tuned for more on that soon.)  However, as I was watching the Sunday morning political talk shows, my wife mentioned something that motivated me to write this post, which is one that I’ve been meaning to do for a while.  While Facebooking (can that really be a verb?), she came across a new Facebook group with the same title as this post.  After rolling my eyes (as I often do in these situations), I realized (also as I often do in these situations) that the creator of that group– and those who subscribe to the explicit as well as implicit sentiment of it– probably just doesn’t have the back-story to understand why things are the way they are and that my initial reaction made me just as guilty of jumping to conclusions as that person was.  Whoever created the group is obviously frustrated– they even say they’re “pissed off” at the “stupid” traffic lights, and I sympathize with their frustration.  But, as is often the case, there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and maybe if folks understood how things got to be as they are, they might be more forgiving.  This posting is an attempt at that.

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