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:

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

Loop 410 is done!

Ribbon cutting for Loop 410 expansion

Ribbon-cutting for Loop 410 expansion

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.

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Construction starting next week on Wurzbach Pkwy

Wurzbach Pkwy construction phases

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.

Most congested roads in San Antonio

Most congested road segments in Bexar County

TxDOT released their second annual list of the 100 most congested roadway segments in the state.  Last year’s list inexplicably missed US 281 north of Loop 1604, but not this year.  However, it still wasn’t tops in Bexar County.   more »

Relief coming for Eckhert at Bandera!

Echkert at Bandera

For commuters from the Medical Center to Bandera Rd., one of the worse bottlenecks is the intersection of Eckhert at Bandera.  While there are dual left turn lanes for traffic headed toward the Medical Center from southbound Bandera, there is only a single right turn lane for traffic coming from the Medical Center to northbound Bandera.  This means that during the afternoon rush hour, that right turn lane backs-up considerably, sometimes all the way to Marshall High School, which itself also contributes to the problems when school’s in session.  To get around that, drivers cut through on neighboring streets, especially Woodchase, and some cut through the Carl’s Jr./Dickey’s parking lot.  A few bold drivers even make illegal right turns from the center lane, which is marked as straight or left turn only.  And I’m sure many drivers just avoid the area entirely.

To finally provide some relief, TxDOT and the City of San Antonio are working to install dual right turn lanes.  Some initial prep work to fix the corner curb and bring the curb cut to ADA compliance was completed a few weeks ago, and the “pork-chop” island that separates the right turn bay from the through lanes was removed earlier this week.  The City now has some traffic signal work to complete and then the restriping will be done.  There’s no official completion date as of now, but I would guess that it would be done by the time school starts-up again later this month or shortly thereafter.

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 »

So long Maggie!

Maggie and Brian at her retirement shindig

Maggie and yours truly at her retirement shindig

You’ve probably seen Maggie Rios on the local news talking about road construction, lane closures, and the like, but you won’t see her on TV anymore– at least not as a TxDOT spokesperson.  That’s because after 30 years of toiling at the state’s highway agency, Maggie has decided it’s time to give up the limelight and retire.  Now she’s off to do what most pensioners look forward to doing: spending ample time with her grandkids and husband and just plain relaxing.

I’ve known Maggie for almost two decades now, going back to when she was an assistant to David Otwell, the agency’s local public information officer back in the late ’80s and early ’90s.  She is a wonderfully kind person and a consummate professional who always strove to be the best liaison and ombudsman possible between TxDOT’s San Antonio district office and John Q. Citizen, an often challenging proposition.  She has provided immeasurable assistance to me over the years in the form of numerous documents, answers to countless questions, and the fielding of a number of complaints and suggestions (yes, even I complain to TxDOT once and a while).  Along the way, she has become a good friend.

As such, it was an honor and privilege for me to be able to attend her retirement ceremony a few weeks ago, during which she received a proclamation from the Legislature thanking her for her many years of service, as well as a flag that had been flown over the state capitol in her honor.  Additionally, she received a nice plaque from TxDOT and a wonderful gift from her co-workers.  It was obvious that she will be greatly missed.

Enjoy your retirement Maggie!

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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My days at the TxDOT photo archive

I-10 south of De Zavala looking north, 1966

I-10 south of De Zavala looking north, 1966 (TxDOT archive)

After returning from my Florida vacay a couple of weeks ago, I spent the balance of my time off of work at the TxDOT archive in Austin.  I had been wanting to go for years after seeing some of the great historical photos from there on other roadgeek websites.  I was not disappointed.

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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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