Loop 1604/SH 151 changes tomorrow

UPDATE (11/1/11) – The changeover has been postponed until Wednesday.

Just back from vacay and have some local news to report.  The final element of the package of improvements along Loop 1604 West that included two superstreet intersections will come online tomorrow.  Namely, the left turn from southbound 1604 to SH 151 will be eliminated.  Motorists wanting to go to SH 151 will now exit at a new exit ramp just south of Culebra, follow the access road, then cross 1604 at a perpendicular signalized intersection.  The existing entrance ramp from Culebra will be closed and replaced by an improved entrance ramp at the SH 151 intersection.  (For a schematic of these changes, see the link under “Additional information” below.)

Like the superstreet intersections, this change will most likely seem completely unintuitive for many folks.  After all, southbound Loop 1604 traffic will now have to stop to allow traffic to enter SH 151 whereas before they didn’t ever have to stop.  But this new arrangement will actually be safer overall and will help reduce congestion in the area.  more »

14 Sep 2011, 10:14am
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Second Loop 1604 superstreet intersection opens tomorrow

lp1604signThe second of two superstreet intersections on Loop 1604 in San Antonio is slated to open tomorrow.  The intersection at Shaenfield should be mostly online for motorists for tomorrow morning’s commute.  There will still be some finish-up work continuing during the next few weeks, but the new traffic patterns will be in effect tomorrow morning.  That means motorists coming from Shaenfield will no longer be able to turn left onto Loop 1604 northbound.  Instead, everyone will turn right and those wanting to go north will then use a new turnaround about 1/4th of a mile downstream.  Motorists wanting to turn left from Loop 1604 onto Shaenfield will still be able to do so using new dual left turn lanes.

If you’re observant, you’ll notice that there have also been left turn lanes built from southbound Loop 1604 that seem to go nowhere and a second turnaround north of Shaenfield that seems to serve no purpose.  Those have been built in anticipation of a future extension of Shaenfield to the east.  The City of San Antonio is currently in the planning stages for that.

The superstreet intersection at Loop 1604 and New Gilbeau opened about a month ago and has provided a noticeable reduction in congestion.  The final element of the current package of improvements along that stretch of Loop 1604 will make changes the SH 151 intersection; it’s due to be completed later this year.  An underpass for SH 151 at Loop 1604 is slated to begin construction next Spring.

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17 Aug 2011, 8:00am
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First Loop 1604 superstreet intersection opens tomorrow

LP 1604 superstreet signThe first of two superstreet intersections on Loop 1604 West is set to open Thursday morning in time for rush hour. Crews have been working this week to pave and complete the other finishing touches. The final work will be done tonight to convert the intersection to its new configuration.

Starting tomorrow morning, traffic coming from New Gilbeau will no longer be able to turn left onto Loop 1604 southbound. Instead, all traffic will turn right with those wishing to go southbound then taking the new turnaround about 1,500 feet downstream. Traffic headed southbound on 1604 will still be able to turn left onto New Gilbeau.

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Blanco Road done! (well, almost); Babcock/Medical on deck

Somewhere on the new section of Blanco

Somewhere on the new section of Blanco

Earlier this week, crews opened all the new lanes on the final stretch of Blanco Road outside Loop 1604, specifically from Wilderness Oaks to south of Huebner.  Last month, the new lanes north of Wilderness Oaks were opened.  All that’s left to do now is some striping, signage, and other “punch-list” items and this long-awaited improvement will be completed.  Along with the recent completion of the US 281 superstreet (well, it too is still getting finishing touches), traffic in and around Stone Oak should start to see appreciable improvements.  Additionally, off to the east, work on widening Bulverde Road from 1604 to Evans is ongoing (expected completion is late 2012) and the city is in the initial planning stages to widen Stone Oak Boulevard to six lanes.

Meanwhile, work is scheduled to start in the next week or so on the latest Medical Center intersection improvement project.  Crews will begin rebuilding the Babcock/Medical intersection in a manner similar to the other recent intersection upgrades.  I haven’t see the plans yet (I’ll update this post if/when I do), but I suspect there will be dual left turn lanes from southbound Babcock onto Medical and probably dual right-turn lanes from westbound Medical onto Babcock in addition to right-turn bays in all four quadrants and other improvements.  And nearby, work on the Hamilton-Wolfe/Floyd Curl intersection is wrapping-up; I expect it to be essentially complete by the end of this month.

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.

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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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Loop 1604/Braun update

Future new westbound lane

Future new westbound lane

A couple of weeks ago, TxDOT completed the restriping of Loop 1604 to three lanes in each direction at Braun Rd.  This seemingly minor change has had a fairly dramatic effect on traffic.  From my own observations, typical peak period traffic jams in both directions have been significantly reduced.  For instance, southbound traffic used to back-up nearly to Bandera Road during the evening rush hour, a distance of a mile or so.  But now it typically backs-up only half of that distance or even less.  I’ll be interested to see how it looks when school gets back into session, but for now, the improvement seems to have eased things quite a bit.  If you drive through this area regularly, post a comment and let me know your observations.

TxDOT is also planning at least one other improvement at that intersection, that being an additional lane on westbound Braun.  more »

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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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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