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Public hearing set for FM1516 improvements

January 8, 2019

Efforts to create a roadway linking Interstate 10 to Interstate 35 take a step forward this month as state highway officials present plans for widening FM 1516.

Texas Department of Transportation officials will present plans to widen FM 1516 from FM 78 in Converse to Interstate 10 to a five-lane roadway. The presentation on the the proposed improvements will be on Jan. 15 from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Judson High School Performing Arts Center, 9443 Schaefer Road. A public hearing that is open to the public will follow the presentation.

The proposed improvements would expand 3.4 miles of FM 1516 from an existing two‐lane roadway to a four‐lane roadway consisting of two 12‐foot travel lanes in each direction, left-turn lanes, bike lanes, and sidewalks. It also includes the addition of drainage ditches and an underground storm water system.

The purpose of the project, according to a TxDOT release, “is to improve mobility, reduce traffic delays and improve safety conditions along the corridor.”

Converse Mayor Al Suarez said the city must come up with its portion of an 80-20 match for the $30.5 million project that, when finished, will tie in to the city’s current widening of South Seguin Street. The project was approved in November 2017, Suarez added.

Transportation officials have addressed the burgeoning growth in the area and honed in on 1516 to create a roadway that will give motorists another multi-lane route between I-10 and I-35.

“They are always looking at mobility issues, and always trying to find ways to ease congestion,” Suarez said. “They know we’re working on Toepperwein Road, and they realize that this could create gridlock if it’s not acted upon.”

A project widening South Seguin Street from two to four lanes with a continual turn lane is in high gear and on track to finish early in 2021. Once that stretch opens, the mouth will feed into the FM 78 intersection, where a natural bottleneck will exist as the lanes quickly reduce to the current two lanes of FM 1516 that runs past D.W. Rutledge Stadium, Converse Elementary School and The Parc at Escondido subdivision before hitting I-10.

“After drivers come off Seguin Street, they go into two lanes. This (FM 1516) project would bring it to five lanes (two traffic lanes in each direction and a center left-turn lane) all the way to I-10,” Suarez said.

TxDOT officials have set Jan. 30 as the final day for comment on the project in order for public comments to be part of the official hearing record. While the hearing is slated for next week, consumers should not expect any immediate impact or traffic relief.

TxDOT plans to go out for bids on the estimated $30.5 million project during the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 and construction to st5art the following quarter. A completion date is estimated for some time in mid-to-late 2023.

The existing right-of-way will be expanded from its current 80 feet to 120 feet, with the proposed right-of-way approximately 15.2 acres.

In its release, TxDOT stated that the project as it stands would result in one commercial displacement but will have no direct residential impact. But there will be environmental impact that TxDOT wants the public to know about.

“Traffic noise impacts may occur,” TxDOT stated. “A total of 1.8 acres of floodplains and 0.2 acres of wetlands may be permanently impacted by the project” which crosses five streams along the 3.4-mile route.

Suarez said the FM 1516 project is part of almost $250 million in road construction and improvement under way or planned in and around the city — $30.5 million for the FM 1516 widening from I-10 to FM 78; $200 million for TxDOT’s improvements of Loop 1604 from FM 78 to I-10; $12 million in the South Seguin Street project; and another $6 for widening of Rocket Lane from two to four lanes with a center turn lane.

“When it’s all said and done, the only thing left will be the relocation of Toepperwein, from the end of Kitty Hawk to South Seguin,” he added.

The city also completed a $10.6 million street improvements project as part of a bond package approved by Converse voters in November 2015 that sought to bring all of the city’s roads up to favorable condition.

jflinn@express-news.net

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