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TxDOT officials unveil future projects

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Bandera County Commissioners received updates from Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials about completed, nearly completed and about-to-be-begun roadway projects throughout the county.
During a Thursday, Oct. 11, meeting, Randall C. Grones, assistant area engineer, San Antonio District, offered a TxDOT Rural Transportation Improvement Plan, titled "Bandera County Road Tour." A similar presentation will likely be tailored for other rural counties.
Projects bid out or already completed included two-way left turn lanes and shoulder work, roadway overlays and pavement markings and adding passing lanes and center turn lanes to Highway 16; and widening and adding shoulders to Ranch Market 337. Also, seal coat projects have been either bid or completed on Farm Market 470, RM 337, Highway 16, Ranch Market 187 and Ranch Market 1077.
Miscellaneous projects included installing advance warning devices and transverse rumble strips at the intersection of Farm Market 1283 and Highway 16 in Pipe Creek and reconstructing roads and parking areas in the Hill Country State Natural Area. Additionally, a traffic light was installed at the intersection of Highway 16 at King's Ranch and Polly Peak roads.
According to Grones, four-year funding for the TxDOT Rural Transportation Improvement Plan from fiscal years 2012-2016 totals $238.8 million.
Proposed projects for FY2013 would include widening Park Road 37 to add shoulders from 0.5 miles southwest of Scenic Mountain to 1.5 miles northeast of Scenic Mountain. Work is expected to begin on this project next month. Ranch Market 2828 from Highway 16 North to Highway 173 North will be seal coated in June 2013.
Plans for fiscal year 2014 include seal coating FM 1283 from Highway 16 to the Medina County line; rehabbing and widening PR 37 to add shoulders from FM 1283 to the Medina County line and from the Bandera County Park to FM 1283; and seal coating Farm Market 3240 from RM 2828 to Highway 173.
During a Q&A period, Judge Richard Evans noted that no projects in the four-year plan addressed poor pavement issues on Highway 16 South. "That's the main road into Bandera. It's in the worst condition and carries the highest traffic count," he said. "Bandera County depends on tourism, but no money has been allocated (for this road)."
Kerr County Engineer Michael Coward assured Evans that he and Todd Sandidage, maintenance supervisor, "would look into it." Indicating that some maintenance had been done in the area, Coward said, "We've done some in-house work. My job performance doesn't like to see red spots." During a slide presentation, red, orange and yellow marks indicated very poor, poor and fair road pavement conditions, respectively.
Evans brought up another pet peeve - contracted TxDOT projects that "have gone on forever," such as the current stoplight installation at Highway 16 South and Old San Antonio Road. "Lanes were closed during Bandera's single biggest weekend and all through tourist season," he said.
Evans felt including local government entities in the project-planning loop would be beneficial. "Things could be tightened up a little," he added.
Noting that (timelines) could be included in contracts if TxDOT officials were aware about events in advance, Grones said, "We can give contractors a specific number of days to complete the work."
"Summer's our 'big event'," Evans quipped. "That (delay) screwed up our whole summer.
Grones indicated the contractor working on the stoplight project on Highway 16 is paying penalties for the work delay. Those monetary penalties, however, are funneled into the state's general fund, rather than the local economy as per mandates from state legislators.
Other difficult roadway situations identified by commissioners included a "critical need" for passing lanes on Highway 46; shoulder inadequacies that likely contributed to two traffic fatalities; lack of paint stripping on the edge of Highway 16; the necessity of installing a "Trucks Turning" warning sign near the landfill in Medina; and lack of signage on Highway 16 indicating two lanes merge into a single lane.
Another area that has been a "serious situation" for more than a decade is the English Crossing Bridge, according to Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris and Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King.
"In 2002 and 2003, water went over the spillway and closed the bridge for two months," Harris said. "This added an hours driving time to residents and made it difficult for police, firemen and EMS to get to the area. This bridge should be a high priority."
According to King, data has been collected about the bridge in the last few five years about closures and traffic counts.
"The issue is waterway adequacy and we need data to back up assertions," Coward said. "We put the collected data in a database and it spits out a number which leads to a ranking." In turn, the ranking determines when repairs will begin.
According to King, however, the five-year drought will no doubt contribute to somewhat skewed data.
Other problems regarding repair or replacement of the English Crossing Bridge would include new federal requirements for guardrails and "traversable slopes," an "astronomical" cost that might be the result of acquiring additional rights-of-way and possibly closing the bridge for the year the project would take.
"When the bridge is closed, motorists would like a little advance notice," King said. He asked that a flip sign be placed at the Pipe Creek Post Office for adequate advance notification. Coward seemed amenable to the suggestion.
Prior to leaving this agenda item, commissioners and Evans thanked Coward and Sandidge for the good work that TxDOT has done in Bandera County.