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.
Construction and closures Roads: Ballenger I-10 Texas Department of Transportation Wurzbach Parkway
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.
Laws and policies Roads Safety: Speed limits Texas Department of Transportation
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.
- TxDOT’s 75 mph page – http://www.txdot.gov/safety/speed_limit/75mph.htm
Roads Safety: Texas Department of Transportation US 281 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.
Construction and closures Roads: Loop 1604 stimulus funds Texas Department of Transportation Tommy Adkisson widening
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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.
Commuting Construction and closures Roads: Texas Department of Transportation Texas Transportation Institute
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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:
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:
The discussion of the accounting error is on page 55 of the report.
Construction and closures History Roads: construction interchange Loop 410 Texas Department of Transportation widening
For the past 30 years, San Antonians have complained about construction along Loop 410. But no more. As Mayor Julian Castro said during today’s Loop 410 ribbon-cutting ceremony, “the headaches are over!”
The last leg of the nearly $1 billion “410 for SA” project to improve Loop 410 across the northside of San Antonio is just about done with just a few final “punch list” items remaining, so TxDOT and other local officials– including the Mayor, County Judge Nelson Wolff, VIA boss Keith Parker, and city councilman John Clamp– took the opportunity today to celebrate the culmination of 30 years of work that widened Loop 410 from six to 10 lanes from Perrin-Beitel to Culebra and built new interchanges at US 281, San Pedro, I-10, and Bandera Rd. All of these improvements have helped get Loop 410 “ahead of the curve” with regards to traffic and has significantly cut congestion and delays throughout the corridor. And the completion comes just in time: 2009 traffic counts show that Loop 410 has regained its position as the busiest highway in San Antonio with an average of 215,000 vehicles per day between I-10 and US 281.
Construction and closures Roads: stimulus funds Texas Department of Transportation US 281 Wurzbach Parkway
TxDOT announced today that work will start next week on the first of three phases to finally complete the Wurzbach Parkway. Crews will begin November 1st on the section from Wetmore to Jones-Maltsberger, with completion expected in early 2014. A month later, on December 1st, work is scheduled to begin on the segment from Blanco Rd. to West Ave. That section should be done about a year sooner, in early 2013.
That leaves the final section from West Ave. to Jones-Maltsberger. That stretch is scheduled to go to bid in May of next year.
All three sections will feature a four-lane divided parkway similar to that already in-place east of Wetmore. Despite earlier uncertainty over costs, it appears now that the projects will include overpasses at Blanco, West Ave., US 281, Jones-Maltsberger, and Starcrest. However, there still are no plans at this time for a full interchange at US 281.
The total cost of all three segments is expected to be around $130 million and is being funded with Proposition 12 funds approved by the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) about a year ago. Officials had originally hoped to get federal stimulus funds for the project, but when that didn’t materialize, the TTC took advantage of new Prop 12 funds authorized by the Legislature. The Wurzbach project was the largest single Prop 12 project approved last year.
Roads: Basse Road Castroville Road congestion Culebra Road Fredericksburg Road I-35 Loop 1604 Nacogdoches Road Texas Department of Transportation US 281 Wurzbach Road