Rebuilding I-35 in New Braunfels

Wed August 26, 2020 - West Edition #18
Irwin Rapoport – CEG Correspondent

Members of the Bridges and Roads LLC team have completed approximately 50 percent of the project so far.
Members of the Bridges and Roads LLC team have completed approximately 50 percent of the project so far.
Members of the Bridges and Roads LLC team have completed approximately 50 percent of the project so far. New materials will include 106, 000 tons of asphalt, 31,000 tons of flexible base and 1,500 tons of concrete.
Bridges and Roads LLC is the general contractor for the I-35 Comal County Operational Improvements project in the San Antonio area. The $24.5 million job has been divided into six phases of construction.


As part of the Texas Department of Transportation's I-35 Comal County Operational Improvements project in the San Antonio area, Bridges and Roads LLC is covering the portion from FM 2252 to Schwab Road in the city of New Braunfels.

Work on the $24.5 million contract, financed by state and federal funds, began on July 9, 2019 and has an anticipated completion date of Summer 2021. HNTB is the CEI on the project.

The project consists of operational improvements at FM 2252, FM 1103 and Schwab Road, with crews constructing the new entrance and exits ramps, both northbound and southbound on I-35. This also includes the construction of a VIA Park and Ride facility in both directions between FM 1103 and Schwab Road on the sites of the old rest areas.

Construction Plan

The project has been divided into six phases: 1A, 1B, 1C, 2A. 2B and 2C.

"We are in the first phase, which should be completed in about two weeks," said Damian Sanchez-Carrasquillo, Bridges and Roads project manager. ‘Phase 1A covers two entrance and one exit ramp on I-35 of exit, two VIA parks and widening on the frontage roads and main lines. We'll be starting on phases 1B and 1C soon."

Phase 1A operations have included earth work, a fair amount of soil lime treatment and the demolition and reconstruction of existing lanes and entrance and exit ramps, as well as the construction of an MSE retaining wall; longitudinal drainage works using RC pipe (24, 30 and 36); road work with FL Base Type D and lime treatments; asphalt paving with TY D and B; and the installation of over 24,000 linear ft. of traffic control concrete barrier.

"We're working with a flexible base that requires proper coordination with your quality control and with your quality assurance personnel to make sure that you have your material at the right water content to achieve your density," said Sanchez-Carrasquillo. "It's a bit of a challenge, but as long as you have cooperation with your QC guys, it's doable. At the beginning we had a lot of excavation work, mainly the removal of old sections of road and grading of slopes along the road."

John Deere 210G excavators and John Deere 277G motor graders have been helpful for these operations.

"After removing the old road with the excavators," said Sanchez-Carrasquillo, "the motors graders come in and we're using them for everything. For phases 1B and 1C, crews will be using a couple of excavators for the removal of the asphalt and concrete and Bobcat Trucking will be moving the materials with their own vehicles. For the remaining sections, crews be using motor graders for the foundation work."

Frontage road operational improvements have crews engaged in grading, surfaces, base and surfacing.

"We're widening about three miles of frontage roads, adding one lane northbound and one lane southbound," said Sanchez-Carrasquillo. "The work is advancing and we are working together with TXDOT and HNTB to keep the schedule moving to achieve this goal.The plan of attack for the next phases is to increase our resources, labor and equipment, as well as the combination of phases in order to accelerate our schedule. The installation of temporary barriers involves a great challenge with safety — there are too many moving parts — trucks, excavators, clamps, and everything can kill. We have taken this installation very seriously through significant planning and coordination to avoid mistakes. The installation needs to be smooth in order to be safe. We have found that is faster and easier for our field crews to install these barriers with a John Deere 470 excavator."

Project Progress

Approximately 50 percent of the project has been completed. Phase 1B covers exit and entrance ramps and Phase 1C is a turnaround lane on Schwab Road. Both phases should be completed by early November.

"This is a high traffic area with motorists coming from Austin and San Antonio," said Sanchez-Carrasquillo, "and when we finish the job, it will be good outcome for the traveling public. The greatest challenge is the traffic and exposure on I-35 and we have solved this through coordination with TxDOT and the city by setting closures at different times to minimize the impacts on traffic. Sometimes that impacts our schedule, but we always find ways to compensate for that."

Barriers placed at work sites protect the workers from oncoming vehicles. There have not been any serious soil, water or utility issues.

"Every so often we find something that should not be there," said Sanchez-Carrasquillo, "but it's nothing major and it can be solved very easily by readjusting the work item and through coordination with the field inspector. We have occasional night work to move barriers and do concrete pours due to the temperatures. Working through TxDOT's area office has been great. They are always willing to help us and work together. They are very considerate when it comes to coordination and to advancing the work schedule."

Partnering for Success

B&R typically has three crews of its own personnel on site, which consists of 15 to 20 employees.

"Our subcontractor, Austin Material, has been great ," said Sanchez-Carrasquillo. "It is always good to see them come and pave. There's a lot work to get to the point of paving, and it is refreshing to see how our hard work will improve the traveling public commute time while transiting I-35."

Sanchez -Carrasquillo is mainly assisted by Project Superintendent Aaron Pendlelton, Project Engineer Jacobo Saurez, and Technical Office Manager Ignacio Berrioategortua.

"We have a great team here — energetic and confident, and we approach problems in a positive manner," said Sanchez-Carrasquillo. "Our guys in the field are always giving us 120 percent. They know what we want and always try to achieve our goals."

The major subcontractors are: Performance Equipment Service for milling and soil treatment; Austin Materials for asphalt; Bradco for concrete flatwork, sidewalks, and concrete ramps; JB Pinnacle for concrete barriers (SSTRs); Elite Curb for curbs and barriers; TRP Construction Group for monthly traffic control; Flasher Equipment for traffic control and stripping; Terracon Consultants for QC laboratory services; Geosource for landscaping and erosion control; The Levy Company for electrical construction; and Area Wide Protective for small signs and traffic control.

The amounts for the materials that will be generated via the demolition and excavation — concrete, asphalt, steel, and of earth and rock are still being tabulated.

"A lot of the material that we have removed has gone to other contractors in the area that needed backfill for their projects," said Sanchez-Carrasquillo.

New materials will include 106, 000 tons of asphalt, 31,000 tons of flexible base and 1,500 tons of concrete.

"We've had a lot of tire punctures due to metal and sharp pieces of rock and concrete," said Sanchez, "and it can take of couple of hours to replace the damaged ones. Some of our equipment on this job to support B&R operation is rented, and the dealerships regularly check on the equipment and do the routine maintenance."

For this project, B&R is mainly renting equipment from dealerships such as RDO Equipment Company, United Rentals, Inc. and Central Texas Equipment.

"Whenever we need equipment or repairs to be done, they respond quickly," said Sanchez-Carrasquillo. CEG