Just after the morning rush hour on Tuesday, drivers crossing San Antonio Street’s Comal River Bridge were awakened to the grim reality of its closure to downtown traffic.
By noon, Capital Excavation, managing Texas Department of Transportation’s $4.5 million renovation of the bridge, had removed most of the venue’s two-dozen light fixtures. New Braunfels Utilities crews were completing relocations of utility poles leading up to the bridge.
Greg Malatek, New Braunfels public works director, said city staffers were on hand for the official closure around 9 a.m.
“We spent the weekend working out some of the bugs in the detours expressed by some of the residents and businesses in the downtown area,” he said. “It’s one of those things that we’ll continue to address as the project continues.”
TxDOT projects its $4,518,896 restoration to last at least 16 months. City officials spent the past few months bracing residents on detours and other facets of the project – which included electronic messaging ahead of the closure, at San Antonio Street intersections north and south of the bridge.
A June count of San Antonio Street traffic averaged 9,474 vehicles crossing the bridge in each direction – which is now detoured onto Comal, Union and Elizabeth avenues, Torrey and Garden streets and Hinman Island and Landa Park drives.
Malatek said the first day went relatively smoothly, except for a few vehicles not knowing where to turn along the detour route.
“One was at Union Avenue coming up on the San Antonio Street intersection, where drivers in the right-hand-turn lane didn’t realize the bridge was closed,” he said. “We’re coming with a few ideas, such as alerting them to that before they reach the barricades. I’ve seen some vehicles wanting to continue straight, which have caused some near-misses at that intersection.”
Malatek said staffers are monitoring the traffic signal at Seguin Avenue and Garden Street.
“In monitoring a TxDOT traffic model, seeing how it reacts to our detour plan, is one of our biggest concerns,” he said, adding some of the barricades leading up to the bridge closure might also be moved.
“For the next couple of weeks, traffic patterns will be adjusting. We ask that drivers be patient and think ahead about their routes when heading into the area,” said David Ferguson, New Braunfels Police Department communications coordinator.
“If drivers see emergency vehicles, such as police, fire and EMS units also adjusting into the new routes, we ask they help their response times by safely pulling over to allow passage to their destinations.”
Malatek said the city will continue to monitor traffic around the bridge as construction enters various phases. He believes residents will adapt to the changes and come up with their own as the project moves along.
“We want to do all we can do to let them know of the available routes, but we’ve also informed them of alternate routes,” he said. “They might test the waters to see how each works for them, and see how other work, as well.
The next notable construction event will prohibit all Comal River traffic – pedestrian and recreation – underneath the bridge beginning Monday, Sept. 23. Malatek said he planned to monitor traffic throughout the associated detour patterns over the next several days.
“The first day’s results have been very positive – though we’re sending folks out to monitor the peak hour traffic later this afternoon,” he said. “The main thing is there have been no accidents thus far.”
For more on the project, visit www.nbtexas.org/bridge.