Major construction on Interstate 35 from the Northeast Side to Cibolo is coming in the first half of the 2020s, including stretches with double-decker lanes.
The Texas Department of Transportation is overseeing expansion of the congested freeway from parts of Loop 410 to FM 1103. No tolls are planned.
Schertz Assistant City Manager Brian James said the agency has been transparent and proactive about the undertaking, plus communicating with the communities directly affected.
“We find TxDOT to be very receptive, and not just about this project,” James said.
Much of the work involves building lanes on raised tiers between the main expressway and frontage roads.
In each direction, a high-occupancy vehicle lane and two general-purpose passageways are planned from connecting points near Kirby and Windcrest roughly all the way to Schertz.
Buses, car pools and vanpools traditionally use HOV pathways.
Two total elevated lanes in each direction — one HOV, one general purpose — will be built from Schertz Parkway to FM 3009.
The new, extra level will end there, but I-35 between 3009 and 1103 should benefit from the inclusion of two new lanes — one HOV, one general purpose — each way.
Crossovers are planned between the new upper-deck lanes at three points for access by first responders. Those spots are between Eisenhauer and Walzem roads, north of Olympia Parkway and north of O’Connor Road.
About 150 residents attended an open house and public hearing reviewing TxDOT’s designs Aug. 15 at Morgan’s Wonderland.
None of the betterments will be tolled, a change from earlier this decade when such an option was considered.
Jonathan Bean, TxDOT’s director of transportation, planning and development for the San Antonio district, told listeners there’s been a policy shift in Austin.
Bean explained without this endeavor, the I-35 corridor through the Metrocom would only become more heavily congested due to the projected population boom in and around Bexar County and surrounding areas.
TxDOT says the average daily vehicle count, on a yearly basis, is expected to rise from 169,017 in 2019 to 393,200 by 2044.
Construction on the first phase, from 410 to 3009, is tentatively scheduled to start in spring 2021. The entire $2.1 billion upgrade is set to conclude within four to five years.
According to James, some Schertz residents and merchants worry I-35 roadwork will disrupt traffic in a still-growing area.
Yet, he added, not expanding would worsen bottlenecks.
James was also encouraged designs included crossovers allowing police and fire personnel to reach emergencies on the elevated lanes.
“All in all, we’re generally pleased and we’ll stay engaged in the process,” he added.
Those discussions between TxDOT and local cities paid off in some significant changes.
An early schematic showed no direct entrance or exit ramp linking the overhead routes and roadways within Live Oak’s city limits.
The plan now adds a connector to Loop 1604 East/Pat Booker Road, which helps the burg, according to its city manager, Scott Wayman.
He acknowledged elevated lanes with limited access and egress for cars along I-35 are meant to keep the freeway moving, but noted it’s crucial for first responders and civilian traffic, including those headed to or from Live Oak businesses, to have immediate entry, too.
Wayman praised the transportation agency for the concession.
“TxDOT has really been good with listening to us,” he added.
San Antonio District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry expressed cautious optimism about the roadwork, adding it’s critical TxDOT secures funding for the entire length of the envisioned project.
“I think it is important that TxDOT fully fund this project and make it whole. The piecemeal approach that we have seen in San Antonio for many years is not sustainable and I believe it is inefficient,” he said.
Improving mobility on I-35 between Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston and Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph and beyond, Perry added, is key to protecting the military missions.
The armed services pump billions into local and state economies.
“These missions are essential to national defense,” Perry said. “For this reason it is imperative and incumbent on TxDOT that we provide the necessary transportation corridors in order for personnel and resources to continue these important efforts.”
More project information can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y2tew2cu.