Plodding through construction on area roadways doesn’t have to play the Grinch this holiday season if drivers slow down and practice patience.

“We’re really encouraging drivers to be patient while driving on Interstate 35 and other construction areas,” said Will Lockett, Texas Department of Transportation’s New Braunfels area engineer. “We also encourage them to find alternate routes, which can be especially difficult getting to and from I-35.”

TxDOT’s major expansion of Interstate 35 between New Braunfels and San Marcos recently entered its second year with continued improvements along Farm-to-Market Road 306 and the Creekside retail area, where traffic snarled last holiday season.

“Drivers in that area can take FM 1101 to State Highway 46 or Creekside Way to the I-35 frontage road to get to Conrads/Kohlenberg — there are several alternate routes around that area,” Lockett said. “Doing so would help with those delays.”

Loop 337/River Road overpass

TxDOT’s $4.52 million renovation of the San Antonio Street bridge spanning the Comal River wrapped ahead of schedule in June. Other TxDOT projects in various stages throughout Comal County, which will see Loop 337 completed as work begins on the River Road overpass. 

Loop 337’s $43.9 million expansion into a four-lane divided highway, including pedestrian access, bridges and signals in a six-mile stretch between Interstate 35 and Hillcrest Drive, began in November 2017 and scheduled to wrap by March. 

“We’re still on track to finish the rest of Loop 337 early next year,” Lockett said. “We still have some overlay work to do at some intersections, open the second turnaround lane at Walnut Avenue, painting of some structures and installing some signage.”

Lockett commended Hunter Industries, which is managing that project, and the entities that made it happen.

“It showed what TxDOT can do when it already has the ROW (right-of-way) and all of the agencies are on board,” he said. “The city, county and Veramendi (developers) all made contributions toward making it one big project, and it really shows what can happen when everyone comes together on a common goal.”

The River Road bridge and overpass, originally projected to cost $10.5 million and now projected at $14.2 million, will extend over the existing intersection to Rock Street. The 18-month project had been slated to begin in September.

“The contractor is scheduled to start sometime in January and completed in the fall of 2022,” Lockett said. 

The $13 million rehabilitation of FM 1863’s 18-mile stretch between U.S. 281 and SH 46 West in New Braunfels should also be finished soon.

“The only things left along are route is replacing portions of fence at various locations and installing centerline rumble strips,” Lockett said.

FM 306/Creekside 

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the start of I-35’s $4.5 billion expansion between San Antonio and Austin. The $1.5 billion phase to add three elevated, two general-purpose lanes and one high-occupancy lane in each direction was to start in 2021. TxDOT, which is conducting several studies along the route, hasn’t committed to a start time.

However, work continues on I-35’s $64 million expansion between New Braunfels and San Marcos, which will include a limited Displaced Left Turn (DLT) configuration on the east side of the FM 306/I-35 intersection. 

Since November 2019, crews have worked to reconfigure I-35 entry and exit ramps north and south of FM 306. 

“The contractor is trying to finish that out by the end of the year,” Lockett said. “Some of the sidewalks will be completed on the (northbound) frontage road between Emerald Drive and Buc-ee’s.”

In September, TxDOT shifted FM 306 traffic lanes between the interstate and Town Center Drive. However, Lockett said TxDOT plans to gradually shift those lanes back into their original configuration, starting before the end of the calendar year.

“We’re going to look at the timing, and most likely it will be after the Christmas holidays,” he said. “But I’ve been told it is planned before the end of 2020, and if so we’re going to do everything we can to keep FM 306 traffic disruption to a minimum.”

After that switch, installing the DLT will be the final stage, with two FM 306 westbound lanes continuing under the overpass with a far right lane leading into I-35 northbound frontage. Aside from operational improvements, FM 306 eastbound traffic lanes will remain the same.

“Depending on the weather and other factors, the DLT itself should only take a few days to finish,” Lockett said, adding the project is now 50% complete and on track to wrap sometime in March.

Moving north, the Conrads Lane/Kohlenberg Road project will add main lanes and frontage lanes in both directions to and from Hays County. The current overpass and loop ramps will be replaced, with frontage lanes widened to three lanes and flank elevated I-35 lanes. 

Traffic will flow through signalized intersections and include turnarounds near residential subdivisions between Conrads/Kohlenberg and Watson Lane East. 

“The contractor is installing columns and other structure north of Conrads/Kohlenberg and south of Watson Lane, near Alligator Creek,” Lockett said. “It’s progressing well. The contractor has been coming up with ideas to reduce the overall timeline of the project, and we’re currently 31% complete.”

Lockett said the detour through the construction zone will remain through the holidays. 

“You will start to see retaining walls go up and we should start setting beams for the parkway sometime in December,” he said. “We’re shooting to work during the nighttime hours to avoid having freeway closures during the days or on the weekends.”

Other Comal projects

Two projects on the county’s south end will soon begin. Work on FM 2252, or Nacogdoches Road, extending from the Bexar County line north to FM 3009 in Garden Ridge, has two components.

The first stage will construct a new $7.2 million bridge over Cibolo Creek. The second will widen FM 2252 from two to four lanes and install a center median and turn lanes between Evans Road and FM 3009 in Garden Ridge. 

Lockett said work on the bridge should begin in December and take about 20 months, followed by the $22 million widening of FM 2252 that is scheduled for completion in 2024.

For more on area TXDOT projects, visit txdotsanantonio.blogspot.com.

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