Beginning Monday, Interstate 35’s northbound entrance ramp north of the Business 35/South Kowald Lane intersection will be closed for the next few months.
The Texas Department of Transportation announced the closure through its blog at 1 p.m. Friday afternoon — less than 72 hours before its two-month hiatus begins at 9 a.m. Monday.
“The bad news … the I-35 northbound entrance ramp — located directly after North Business 35 (in front of the Evergreen RV Center) — will be closed for approximately two months, starting at 9 a.m. this Monday, Oct. 7,” the blog said, adding, “This ramp closure is necessary while crews replace the entrance ramp with an exit ramp.”
It’s all part of TxDOT’s plan to convert the I-35 and Farm-to-Market Road 306 intersection into what’s called a partial Displaced Left Turn (DLT) configuration — a continuous flow intersection similar to the State Highway 80/I-35 junction in San Marcos.
There, westbound SH 80 traffic seeking southbound I-35 access is rerouted to the far left and controlled by separate traffic lights, freeing up center lanes to pass through the intersection.
TxDOT is reversing ramps as part of a similar configuration for the FM 306/I-35 intersection.
The first change will close and reverse the northbound access ramp just south of the juncture.
“Drivers should know that during this two-month ramp closure they should use the next entrance ramp located right up the road just south of FM 306/Creekside Crossing (the Buc-ee’s intersection) exit,” the blog said.
Closing the ramp will exacerbate the current driver quagmire – merging exiting I-35 traffic with additional entry traffic south of the FM 306 intersection. TxDOT says the ramp closure is expected to end in early December – when the new exit ramp will open.
Hernan Rozemberg, TxDOT’s San Antonio-area public information officer, apologized for the short notice, saying the decision to begin the ramp reversal was made earlier last week.
“We wanted to minimize an already tough situation by finishing the work ahead of holiday travel,” he said Friday night.
TxDOT said the ramp reversal and DLT configuration is part of a larger project that also includes rehabilitation of I-35 main lanes between the Guadalupe River and FM 306 by March 2021. It will also include reconstruction of the I-35 northbound-to-southbound turnaround at FM 306, scheduled to begin in September 2020 and projected to last at least one month.
“Reversal of the ramp in front of the RV center is the precursor for changes coming to the I-35/ FM 306 intersection, with the new DLT configuration expected to both enhance safety and reduce congestion at this intersection that New Braunfels folks have known for quite some time to be really busy,” TxDOT said.
The first step, eliminating the entrance and reversing into an exit further south will allow northbound I-35 traffic – often stacked up at the current FM 306 exit – additional time and distance before it reaches the FM 306 intersection.
TxDOT recently opened its first San Antonio-area DLT at Loop 1604 and SH 16 (Bandera Road) in northwest San Antonio.
“The unique set-up confused first-time drivers, but since then the community has really taken to it and in just a few months we’ve already seen a drastic reduction in congestion at that extremely busy intersection,” it said.
Greg Malatek, New Braunfels public works director, was surprised of the late announcement of Monday’s closure but said that improvements are needed at the intersection.
“I would say that the ultimate ramp reversal and displaced left turn configuration intersection at FM 306 will improve safety and traffic efficiency as shown in past projects along the I-35 corridor at heavily congested locations,” he said.