Continuous construction on Interstate 10 is frustrating many Leon Springs and Fair Oaks Ranch residents, but the highway department warns it will be years before the roadwork hits the brakes.
The latest headache — besides frequent traffic snarls — are closures of I-10 exits leading to Fair Oaks Ranch, Camp Bullis and The Dominion, plus local high-occupancy vehicle lane shutdowns.
However, these undertakings are necessary to continue an expansion of the thoroughfare between La Cantera Parkway and Ralph Fair Road, said Texas Department of Transportation officials.
Some relief is possible as work on the Fair Oaks Parkway bridge leading into Fair Oaks Ranch ceases this summer, and other activity concludes by year’s end.
“We’ve always said this project was going to carry into late 2018, so having construction going even now isn’t a shocker,” said Josh Donat, a TxDOT spokesman. “To be completely honest, we have additional construction projects planned for the I-10 corridor between Loop 1604 and Boerne over the next eight years.”
Donat said these projects are designed to keep pace with the rapidly rising population.
“If we stopped building after our current projects wrapped up (the I-10 enlargement through Ralph Fair finishes in 2020), folks would feel the pain of growth pretty darned fast,” Donat added.
Yet, many longtime neighbors say construction is never-ending.
“My biggest concerns about the traffic on I-10 is how dangerous it is to drive through the areas with barriers and (the slow progress),” said resident Max Martin. “When they finish one area, then they come back to start another project on that same area instead of doing all of them at the same time.”
He recalled a TxDOT meeting 20 years ago at Leon Springs Elementary School, where state highway officials outlined a lengthy procedure of I-10 traffic counts, planning and putting projects out to bids before implementation.
“I understand the process, but they don’t seem to look forward and anticipate anything but only wait until it is a crisis,” Martin said.
Locals and businesses close to Fair Oaks Ranch’s entrance have endured a double whammy of congestion and construction as the city addresses its own road matters.
“The shutdowns have made it a little harder for people to get around in their daily commute who live and work around Fair Oaks Ranch,” said City Manager Tobin Maples.
Councilman Roy Elizondo said he’s received many complaints about traffic and enhancements, particularly on social-media sites such as Nextdoor. However, state and city officials are doing their best to update folks, he added.
“It’s a topic that comes up quite a bit and people are always curious when projects will be complete,” Elizondo said. “I feel TxDOT has done a good job and had quite a few public forums on the subject and put information out there for people to access. (Residents) call the city as well and our people are in touch with TXDOT, (so) there’s a good flow of information back and forth.”
The councilman said he also understands neighbors might be upset, but added TxDOT is “trying to get this done pretty quick.”
Not all agree. Martin said concerns shared with the authorities fall on deaf ears.
“I did complain to TxDOT at their open-house meetings about all of these projects, but they really didn’t answer the questions,” he said.
Pratap Khanwilkar, another resident, believes TxDOT simply recognized the expansion problem too late.
“It is long overdue,” Khanwilkar said. “The commute from (the University of Texas at San Antonio and UT Health) to Boerne and Fair Oaks Ranch is horrible during rush-hour times. Clearly more freeway lanes are needed as well as merge lanes to ensure smoother traffic flow and less choke points.”
Khanwilkar said it seems local officials worry about roadway improvements only after extensive developments are in place, not before.
“The work and progress is proceeding at a snail’s pace — typically three times slower than where I have lived in the U.S. before,” he said.
There also should be options for biking, walking and future light rail, Khanwilkar added.
“(We could) do it now before it becomes impossible to implement. (Otherwise) it will be just urban sprawl and not a livable city.”
During a recent address, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg outlined several proposals to ease future traffic ills, including investing in mass transit, bicycles and other transportation forms.
Like it or not, more construction is coming, Donat said.
“We’re trying to meet the growing demand for roads out there,” he said. “In order to do that, well, it means the corridor will feature construction at one spot or another for the next five to eight years, and that’s just based on current projections. Should growth continue to climb, the need for even more projects could arise and construction could be going even longer.”
He added, “I know that’s not what everyone wants to hear, but that’s the reality of living in growing communities with neighbors so fantastic everyone wants to live by them.”
TxDOT planners are discontented with the slow proceedings, too.
The current phase of improvements on I-10 near Fair Oaks Ranch should finish before 2018 does; a bridge at Fair Oaks Parkway and Tarpon Drive will be complete by early summer, Donat said.
Motorists using cellphones also impede traffic flow, he noted.
“The biggest thing we need people to do is put their phones and other distractions away while driving,” Donat said. “No other single item contributes to congestion and safety issues more than drivers distracted by handheld devices of any number of types. I really wish drivers would just put the dang phone away and drive.”
For more, visit TxDOT’s blog at http://txdotsanantonio.blogspot.com.