San Antonio’s Booming Traffic Demands Require Continued Upgrades to I-10 Corridor
Careful Coordination Proves Crucial: Faced with Ever-Increasing Traffic Volumes, San Antonio Maintains Diligence to Improve I-10 Corridor
Like most other flourishing metropolitan areas, San Antonio deals with frequent roadway congestion due to ever-increasing traffic volumes. With approximately 43,800 vehicles being added each year, transportation planners are focused on making sure this infrastructure can meet the demands of an extra 1 million vehicles expected by 2040.
The region’s busiest corridor is Interstate 10, which links to Houston in the east, another thriving urban center. Because of this regional connection, a prodigious plan has been developed to expand all of I-10 between the two cities, which will increase capacity and address deteriorating pavement conditions.
“There’s been a lot of growth and increasing traffic on the east side of San Antonio, so these are much-needed improvements in Bexar County,” says Eddie Reyes, PE, Area Engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) San Antonio District’s Bexar Metro office.
Upgrades to this eastern portion of I-10 will be instrumental in increasing mobility and enhancing safety for travelers. There are numerous projects either planned or under construction, the sum of which involve adding and reconstructing mainlanes, improving overpasses and interchanges, rebuilding and reconfiguring ramps, and converting two-way frontage roads to one-way operation.
TxDOT awarded one of these noteworthy I-10 East projects to Webber, LLC, a Houston area-based subsidiary of Ferrovial S.A. and one of the largest general contractors in the nation. Funded by the Texas Clear Lanes congestion-relief program, this $108-million contract for roadwork between I-410 and Loop 1604 is expected to take 26 months to complete.
While the 56-year-old construction firm has worked on projects in the San Antonio and Austin areas for many years, it did not establish a regional office in Central Texas until 2017. “Winning this project was a confirmation of the good work of our U.S. 281 project team and relationships built with our subcontractors and vendors in San Antonio. It is also a project that fits Webber’s expertise – a large concrete paving job,” says Felix Martin, Central Texas Region Vice President of Webber’s Heavy Civil Division.
Widening I-10 East Between I-410 and Loop 1604
Construction along this segment has been underway since October 2018 and is expected to conclude in February 2021. The scope of work involves expanding approximately 6.7 miles of highway and reconstructing all four existing bridges within the project limits.
“The project team is converting the roadway from a four-lane rural interstate divided by a grassy median into a six-lane urban interstate, divided by a median barrier that includes new lighting, wider shoulders and softer grades,” says Project Engineer Jacob R. Fuentes, a member of RKI. “They are also aligning the existing bridges, and reconstructing and reversing the entrance and exit ramps to accommodate a newly constructed one-way frontage road in each direction.” The I-10 overpasses being rebuilt at Ackerman Road, Rosillo Creek, Martinez Creek and FM 1516 will require an estimated 205,000 square feet of new bridge deck.
This past June, Webber finished building twonew mainlanes in the former center median area between W.W. White Road and Rosillo Creek. Eastbound I-10 traffic was rerouted to the new pavement, which was constructed at a lower grade to provide additional clearance under the I-410 overpass. This traffic shift also required the construction and use of a temporary ramp to connect northbound I-410 traffic to the new eastbound I-10 mainlanes, which in turn necessitated the closure of the eastbound I-10 exit to Ackerman Road.
“Most of the work is being performed during the day, but some key operations like setting concrete beams on bridges will require lane closures or even in certain instances full freeway closures. While shutdowns are inconvenient, they are done to ensure the safety of construction workers and the traveling public,” says Webber Project Manager Adria Benages.
Currently, crews are reconstructing the outside eastbound mainlanes. By next summer, both eastbound and westbound traffic will be routed to fourlanes in the median area of I-10, and will continue in this configuration until all roadwork is completed.
“This project, as well as the ensuing projects in the east, features continually reinforced concrete pavement (CRCP) as the primary pavement design. In the San Antonio district, this is still a fairly new practice,” Fuentes notes. Project team members estimate that 430,000 square yards of concrete pavement and 60,000 tons of asphalt pavement will be needed for this project.
Reinforced concrete pavement is a more durable solution for heavily traversed roadways, adds Martin. “With the high volume of traffic that I-10 experiences on a daily basis, the use of CRCP reduces the amount of maintenance over the years – which saves money in the long run,” he explains.
The contractor, which is self-performing much of the work, has set up its own concrete batch plants to speed progress. “This enables Webber to have control of the material and production for one of the most key items on the project,” Benages says. “In addition, we are utilizing a ‘zero clearance’ paving method that allows us to be more efficient while paving in areas of limited space.”
Coordinating Other Key Projects
Multiple projects are being performed simultaneously by different contractors in the vicinity of I-10 East. Naturally, these overlapping activities increase the need for careful coordination and streamlined communications.
Frontage road upgrades around Woodlake Parkway are directly impacting roadwork between I-410 and Loop 1604. Texas Sterling Construction Company (TSC) holds the $64 million contract for this concurrent project.
“We began in the fall of 2016 and the current schedule has us completing sometime after the first of the year,” says Tom Graff, Construction Project Manager at Civil Engineering Consultants, Inc., which is providing construction engineering and inspection services for TSC’s project. “The scope of work consists of intersection upgrades, installing new signals, reconfiguration of the entrance and exit ramps, and converting the frontage road from two-way to one-way operation to improve safety.”
The project team also built the Woodlake Parkway bridge. The westbound lanes opened to traffic in fall 2018, and the eastbound lanes opened in spring 2019.
“The reason for adding the Woodlake Parkway bridge is to add capacity in anticipation of continued economic development and future population growth,” Reyes explains. “It offers another connection between the north and south sides of I-10.”
Currently, Webber is widening the 323-foot-long structure, which was 115 feet wide to accommodate six lanes of traffic in either direction. The expansion is anticipated to be completed this fall, at which point the bridge will be 144 feet wide with capacity for 10 traffic lanes (five in each direction) and will have a minimum vertical clearance of 16 feet, 6 inches.
Because of the symbiotic relationship between the I-10 East mainlane and frontage road projects, TxDOT personnel and construction team members have been gathering weekly to coordinate their efforts. “We even developed a coordinated public outreach plan, establishing a project webpage and providing email updates for all of the I-10 East work in between I-410 and the Bexar-Guadalupe county line,” Fuentes adds.
At the time of reporting for this article, excavation work on Loop 1604 between I-10 and Martinez Creek was taking place. The 3-mile job, led by Mario Sinacola & Sons Excavating, Inc., involves converting the existing two-lane undivided roadway into a four-lane divided roadway at a cost of $19.6 million.
“Since we have separate contracts for the various work being performed along I-10 East, TxDOT is better able to eliminate duplicate work as well as streamline the sequencing of activities,” Reyes states. The advantages of these refined planning processes include increased efficiency and cost savings.
With the San Antonio metropolitan region growing by leaps and bounds, TxDOT’s project volume will continue to increase to keep pace with roadway demands. For those overseeing these infrastructure upgrades, the shared hope is that their efforts will adequately address capacity needs and help traffic flow more safely and reliably in the future.