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Webber Unclogs Notorious Texas Bottleneck

Wed January 24, 2024 - West Edition #2
Irwin Rapoport – CEG Correspondent

The FM 110 loop is located on the eastern edge of San Marcos and Hays County.
Photo courtesy of TxDOT
The FM 110 loop is located on the eastern edge of San Marcos and Hays County.
The FM 110 loop is located on the eastern edge of San Marcos and Hays County.   (Photo courtesy of TxDOT) In the planning stages for more than three decades, the FM 100 project saw the construction of an asphalt surface loop in San Marcos, Texas, that runs east of I-35, which provides a much needed alternative to the busy Texas interstate.   (Photo courtesy of TxDOT) The FM 110 loop is located on the eastern edge of San Marcos and Hays County and connects I-35 at McCarty Lane on the south side of the city with Yarrington Road at I-35 on the city’s north end.   (Photo courtesy of TxDOT) TxDOT and local officials broke ground on the project in March 2022.   (Photo courtesy of TxDOT)

Construction of the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) $39 million FM 110 North project will wrap up later this month with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the initiative that created a loop around the city of San Marcos, providing a much needed alternative to I-35.

The newly constructed loop runs east of I-35 from south of Kyle to south of San Marcos.

"There were many who doubted this project would ever be built," said Hays County Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe. "The first discussions happened in the 1960s."

Webber LLC, which began construction on March 1, 2022, built a 6.5 mi. road (one lane in each direction) that connects the middle and south sections, added 10-ft. shoulders from SH 80 to I-35 and a bridge over SH 21 and another over the railroad.

Loop Construction

The loop is based on an asphalt road surface.

"These decisions are made during high-level preliminary engineering meetings when we evaluate the project's needs, costs and lifecycle considerations," said Willie Semora, TxDOT's South Travis Area Engineer. "It's not out of the ordinary for a roadway with FM 110's character to be an asphalt surface. The construction materials and techniques designed into FM 110 are standard for the Central Texas region.There were very few traffic issues associated with the construction."

Photo courtesy of TxDOT

"Given FM 110 was a green field [new ROW] project, there was very little need to manage traffic," said Semora. "Traffic control plans were only used at SH 21 while building the bridge structure, SH 80 while making the final connection and Yarrington Road where we made the connection to the existing Yarrington Road. The traffic control plans worked well and achieved our goal to maintain safety within the work zone."

The loop was opened to traffic in late December 2023. The remaining work consists of clean-up efforts.

"During construction, the team worked hard to manage utility impacts and site conditions," said Semora. "Given this was a green field project, utilities were minimal. There were some impacts and TxDOT worked hard to coordinate and manage clearance. Also, with the severe drought conditions we experienced during the summer of 2023, soils in the region challenged our teams to provide high quality projects. Lastly, managing the construction and interaction of the project at the SH 80, SH 21 and I-35 connections were a big challenge, as well as coordinating the SH 21 overpass construction with the airport."

The construction of FM 110 was completed seven weeks ahead of schedule.

"As with most projects, there were some utility challenges," said Semora, "but TxDOT and Webber met those head on and worked quickly to have them relocated and mitigate their impact. TxDOT has a great relationship with all our construction partners. Webber worked diligently with the TxDOT staff to address needs and solve challenges daily."

The new section of the loop was mainly constructed from south to north to link the two existing sections.

"In general, TxDOT always prepares the right-of-way, makes the necessary cuts and fills, builds the drainage infrastructure, builds the road base and then places the final paving and safety features you see on the surface," said Semora. "A good amount of the excess excavated material was used on-site as a recycled product for earth fill and select fill."

Approximately 53,000 cu. yds. of material excavated by Weber crews.

"Existing vegetation and trees were cleared as needed within the new right-of-way for construction of the improvements," said Semora, who noted that the new lanes are based on 2 ft. of embankment, 8-in. flexbase, 4-in. TY B HMA, 1.5-in. TY D HMA and 1-in. TOM.

There are shoulders on either side of the loop. Drainage and underground infrastructure were installed ahead of the paving crews.

Equipment operators used many different pieces of iron, including cranes, dozers, loaders, rollers, motor graders, man lifts and many other vehicles typically found on a road project.

Two bridges were constructed — one 0.76 mi. long and the other .0.33 mi. long — along with two ramps. Prefabricated concrete and steel beams and other elements were used to build the bridges.

"The bridges generally took the duration of the project from foundation all the way up to the final traffic rail to complete," said Semora.

To build the bridges, crews used cranes, drill rigs, pump trucks, screeds, safety lines and other pieces of equipment.

Webber built 13.2 mi. of shoulders. The plan of attack was based on surveying, prepping the ROW, stake limits, the construction of roads and bridges and then surveying and marking out the location of striping, roadway and shoulders.

It took 440 days to install the shoulders, which were built using survey equipment, loaders, a road grader, skid steer and striping rig.

Photo courtesy of TxDOT

TxDOT's team included Assistant Area Engineer Mark Baumann, Senior Project Manager Mike Harlin, Project Manager Todd McBride, Construction Engineer Camila Milon and RSH&H serving as the inspection team.

"As with all our projects the TxDOT team works cohesively to deliver projects in a safe and efficient manner," said Semora. "Crews worked tirelessly through all types of weather and the heat to achieve the final product. We are pleased with the results and are grateful for their dedication and hours worked on this project to fruition."

The amounts of new materials brought in have not been finalized.

Webber brought in subcontractors as needed.

Timely and efficient maintenance was essential to meeting construction benchmarks.

"Webber ensured that everyday wear and tear repairs were dealt with rapidly, and that routine maintenance was taken care of to ensure timely construction," said Semora.

Project Background

"Hays County remains one of the fastest growing areas in the country," said Antonio Lujan, a TxDOT PIO of the Austin District. "The exponential growth has increased traffic in the San Marcos and Kyle communities. The FM 110 loop serves as an alternative to I-35, while providing access for new development and easing congestion in this fast-growing area. With an increased population, I-35 has seen a rise in traffic going south from Kyle to San Antonio, and FM 110 will offer an alternative to help alleviate the congestion on the interstate."

Construction began in March 2022.

Hays County covered the cost of the project development and right-of-way purchases, while TxDOT financed the construction of the new road and infrastructure. The FM 110 North project was the last of three projects to complete the loop.

The North project was designed by LJA Engineering Inc.

"Hays County worked hard to balance the roadway's new alignment with required right of way," said Semora. "As with most projects, the engineers worked hard to ensure that the new alignment met our design and safety criteria while balancing the impacts to surrounding property. Management of new utilities and developments were also a challenge given the region's fast-paced growth."

Asked what the lifespan of the new road and bridge infrastructure, Semora replied: "TxDOT does not use a specific lifespan value. We design roadways to achieve a high level of mobility for the foreseeable future given the assumed growth rates. It's important to note that FM 110 was built to only half of its ultimate forecast, including a plan to add future overpasses." CEG

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