19 Feb 2017, 9:04am
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Not gonna use the HOV lane? It still benefits you!

HOV-sign

TxDOT is preparing to build San Antonio’s first two high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on I-10 West and US  281 North. Construction of both is scheduled to start this year.

One comment I frequently hear about HOV lanes is from people saying they won’t use them, so they won’t benefit from them.  A corollary of that is that people who won’t use them don’t think their tax money should be spent on them.  As is often the case, both of these viewpoints fail to see the bigger picture.

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19 Mar 2014, 4:47pm
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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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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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2 Aug 2013, 10:24am
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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.

Ballenger projects starting back up

After the bankruptcy of Ballenger Construction late last year, several TxDOT and COSA projects were lain dormant.  The good news is that their bonding company is nearing the end of the process to hire new contractors to get those projects finished.  Work should be starting next month again on the I-10 project (Ramsgate to Loop 1604) and the “bookends” of the Wurzbach Parkway project.  I’m not as familiar with the COSA projects, but I hear the Hunt Lane project should also have a new contractor by this time next month.

75 mph coming to SA area Interstates!

The Texas Transportation Commission approved increasing the speed limit to 75 mph on about 1,500 miles of mostly-rural Interstate highways in the state.  Around the San Antonio area, the following stretches will see 75 mph signs soon:

  • I-10 West from Loop 1604 to past Kerrville (where it’s already 80 mph)
  • I-10 East from just outside Loop 410 to Waller County west of Houston
  • I-35 South from Palo Alto Rd. to the existing 75 mph section south of Devine
  • I-37 from just inside Loop 410 to Corpus Christi

I-35 between San Antonio and Austin was not approved for the higher speed limit.

The Legislature approved the higher speed limits last year.

More information

Stopping wrong-way drivers

In San Antonio and across Texas, there has been a rash of wrong-way drivers (WWD) over the past few years.  In San Antonio last year, there was a WWD about every other day.  Fortunately, 80% of those drivers caused no accidents.  But sadly, seven people were killed by WWDs last year.  Of no surprise was that the majority of WWDs were intoxicated.

To combat the problem, several agencies formed the San Antonio Wrong Way Driver Task Force in March 2011.  Those agencies include TxDOT, SAPD, City of San Antonio Public Works Department, Bexar County Sherrif’s Office, and Texas Transportation Institute, and the Federal Highway Administration.  The task force worked to determine the extent and characteristics of the local problem, evaluate previous research and countermeasures, and formulate a plan to test and implement countermeasures locally.

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30 Sep 2011, 10:39am
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Ribbon cut on Loop 1604 project in NE San Antonio

Local TxDOT officials joined with several dignitaries yesterday to cut the ribbon on a project that widened Loop 1604 near Randolph AFB.  The 17 month, $6.6 million project upgraded 2.5 miles of Loop 1604 from a two-lane “farm” road to a four-lane divided highway.  The project came in on-time and under budget.

Speakers at the ribbon-cutting included US Representative Henry Cuellar.  Cuellar helped secure the federal economic stimulus funding to get the project off the ground.

This section of the loop has been in the news recently.  A project to continue the expansion from its current terminus at Lower Seguin Road to I-10 is planned to start next year.  However, county officials had briefly considered transferring funding from that project to construct the northern set of ramps at US 281 and Loop 1604.  An alternative source of funding was found, however, thus allowing the widening project to continue as planned.

It’s worth noting that this expansion mirrors a similar expansion done on Loop 1604 West nearly two decades ago.  Road improvements tend to be incremental or evolutionary.  The road system San Antonio has today didn’t just drop out of the sky one day.  The project dedicated yesterday upgraded a congested and dangerous two-lane road to a four-lane divided highway with traffic signals.  This configuration is a substantial improvement over the previous road and is more than adequate for the current needs and for those in the foreseeable future, just as the expansion of Loop 1604 south of Braun Road was back in the ’90s.  Will traffic growth eventually render this roadway obsolete?   Maybe.  But building a full-fledged expressway at this location now is unnecessary and would have been an injudicious use of scarce funding, just like doing so out on Loop 1604 West back in the ’90s would have been.

11 Sep 2011, 11:14pm
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Worst traffic road conditions in Texas

Worst traffic road conditions in Texas

Officials have released a list of the 100 worst traffic conditions in Texas.

Dallas motorists suffer the most highly congested road conditions in Texas, says a recent report from the Texas Department of Transportation.

The state’s top three bottlenecks are all located in Dallas County, according to the 100 Most Congested Roadway Segments in Texas. But while Dallas has the hottest spots, Harris County actually has more of them. The Houston area has 31 on the worst road conditions traffic list while Dallas has 21.

Road conditions for Fort Worth are next in line for headaches, with 15 tight spots, followed by San Antonio with 11 and Austin with 10.

Here are the top 10 most congested roads and their respective counties:

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I love it when I’m right…

Back from a few weeks of daddy-duty, and this caught my eye right off the bat…

One year ago, almost to the day, I posted here defending the TxDOT $1 billion “accounting error” that toll opponents, gubernatorial candidates, and other TxDOT-haters were using to justify their anti-TxDOT rhetoric.  In it, I noted that if people would just take a few minutes to understand what happened, they would realize that the “error” was in reality quite harmless, easy to make, and, most importantly, that no money had actually been lost. 

Well, lo-and-behold, the TxDOT Restructure Council’s recent final report with recommendations on how to improve that agency included a footnote about the error and guess what– it completely validated my position.  From the Ft. Worth Star:

And, the report included a miscellaneous note about the 2007 fiasco involving a $1.1 billion “accounting error” that briefly led to a statewide shut down of road work.

The report concluded that in fact there was no actual accounting error — and the department didn’t actually lose $1.1 billion, as many critics have alleged. Instead, the department was in effect a victim of its own dissemination of inaccurate information.

In September 2007, the report noted, a memo was sent to all district engineers regarding the next year’s letting schedule. The memo informed them that $4.1 billion would be available for construction projects, but that figure was inaccurate because it included $600 million in bond funding that had been double-counted internally, and $500 million from the Texas Mobility Fund that wasn’t available.

Steps were quickly taken to correct the mistake and prevent it in the future, the report noted.

The full report is available here:
http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/restructure/report_010511.pdf

The discussion of the accounting error is on page 55 of the report.

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