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FM 1516 widening to start in 2022, state says

January 22, 2019

The widening of FM 1516 from Interstate 10 to FM 78 in Converse will begin sometime in 2022, according to Texas Department of Transportation officials, and may include the erection of traffic noise barriers along residential properties that line the route.

The $23.5 million project will widen FM 1516 to a five-lane roadway, with two travel lanes in each direction and a center turn-lane. The project includes bicycle lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the roadway and drainage improvements.

TxDOT officials hosted a one-hour public meeting — complete with reviewable charts, graphs and maps showing the route and its expansion — in the Judson High School Performing Arts Center prior to conducting a public hearing that focused on some of the project’s environmental efforts.

“The project is need to reduce congestion, which in turn will improve travel time along FM 1516, and improve safety conditions along the corridor by upgrading intersections,” said Laura Lopez, TxDOT public information officer. “It will improve pedestrian and bicycle safety and accommodate future traffic, which is projected to more than double by the year 2044.”

The project will feature four 11-foot-wide directional lanes and a 14-foot center turn-lane. Each side of the roadway will include a 5-foot bike lane and a 6-foot-wide sidewalk. This is compared to the current lone directional 12-foot lanes with 8-foot berms, no bike lanes and scant sidewalks.

From 2011-2015, 81 injury-related crashes were reported along the 3.4 miles of roadway between I-10 and FM 78. Rear-end crashes are the most common type of crashes recorded along the corridor, according to TxDOT. Lopez said traffic congestion and the rise in traffic incidents “can be attributed to an outdated rural design roadway” that is now serving a growing suburban area.

Eight of those 81 injury-crashes involved bicyclists and pedestrians. “The motor-vehicle crash rate in the project area was higher than the state average for this type of roadway,” Lopez added.

The agency’s projections estimate current vehicle traffic of 13,000 vehicles per day will more than double to an estimated 26,900 vehicles a day by the year 2044.

The existing right-of-way of 80 to 120 feet will need to be widened along a majority of the route to encompass 90 to 178 feet in width. The agency reported the need to purchase 15.2 acres of right-of-way over the next two years, during which utility adjustments and setbacks will be need to be accomplished.

Lopez said traffic noise barriers are being considered along several of the stretches of highway where the expanded roadway will cut closer to existing subdivisions and housing areas.

“Consideration for noise walls along the corridor will involve more detailed design to see if noise walls can be reasonably constructed in areas that are identified in the noise study,” Lopez said.

If noise walls are found to be needed and can be constructed, TxDOT will visit with the adjacent property owners, who will then have the opportunity to vote on the construction of any potential noise walls.

The project has no direct residential impact, and includes a lone business structure will be displaced.

Converse Mayor Al Suarez said the FM 1516 expansion project “will facilitate the explosive growth in the Converse area by increasing traffic mobility, reducing traffic delays and improving safety conditions for all area residents.”

The I-10-to-FM 78 stretch will be a continuation of the city of Converse’s current widening of South Seguin Street. A stretch of Toepperwein Road through Converse remains the lone section of roadway not currently under construction or funded at this time. When all are finished, the route will create a five-lane road from Interstate 35 to I-10 through Live Oak and Converse.

“This goes along with a continuation of the South Seguin project … so we’ll have an alternate route parallel to Loop 1604, that links I-10 to I-35,” he said. “Toepperwein Road is approved as an MPO project, but with no funding. That is the last leg that is approved, but not funded.”

The FM 1516 project’s total cost of $23.5 million includes $11.75 million from the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority and the remainder made up of state and federal funds approved by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“The current work (on South Seguin Street) is the precursor to this (FM 1516) work. If you didn’t have Seguin, and then didn’t have the FM 1516 project, you’d have gridlock,” the mayor said. “There are about five subdivisions along FM 1516 that are already planned, so growth is happening.”

jflinn@express-news.net

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