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.

There are a couple of interesting aspects to this project: the first is the layout. ┬áWhen this section of 1604 was built ca. 2007, it was designed to eventually be upgraded to a full expressway. ┬áEssentially, what’s on the ground now is the eastern half of the future corridor: the current northbound lanes will become the future northbound frontage road and the current southbound lanes will become the northbound mainlanes. ┬áTo complete the expressway, TxDOT will mirror what’s there now to the west (those new roadways will become the southbound mainlanes and frontage road) and overpasses will be added for the mainlanes at the aforementioned intersections.

current1604

 

future1604x

 

The second interesting facet is an alignment change to avoid an endangered species habitat.  In doing the environmental assessment for this project, engineers discovered a karst feature home to several endangered species in the existing right-of-way between Wiseman and Military.  After looking at several complex engineering solutions to go over the affected area within the existing right-of-way, engineers decided to take a simpler and more expedient approach and go around it.  This means that the new road will bow to the east a bit between Reed Road and Kilmarnoch Lane.  A small amount of new right-of-way will need to be acquired to accommodate the shift.  Fortunately, the frontage in that area is currently undeveloped, although a proposed apartment complex at that site will need to be redesigned a bit.  By shifting the road, TxDOT avoided additionaly lengthy consultations and vetting from the federal government.

Overall, the discussion I heard around the plans was positive. ┬áA few folks whose property backs-up to Loop 1604 had some specific concerns, and a few folks expressed concern about what will happen further south at US 90 (the answer is that there is yet another follow-on project in the works to improve that intersection.) ┬áThere were also several questions about the SH 151 intersection– as mentioned in a previous post, TxDOT is currently re-designing that project to┬áminimize disturbing an endangered spiderÔÇÖs habitat. ┬áIt is expected to get federal environmental clearance either later this year or early next year. ┬áIf/when it gets clearance, it will be added to the current project to upgrade 1604 from Culebra to Bandera.

Speaking of the Culebra to Bandera project, I also learned that work will actually begin the week of March 24th.  The access roads south of Braun will be built first; this will allow traffic to be shifted to those roadways while the overpasses are built at Braun, New Guilbeau, and Shaenfield.  The contractor also anticipates being able to start earthwork for the Braun overpass right away.

 

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