February 20, 2007
Still more on Old Spanish Trail

Rad Sallee must have really struck a nerve with his columns about the sorry state of Old Spanish Trail because he's gone back to the well for a third time.

Texas Department of Transportation area engineer Maureen Wakeland had briefly explained what caused the delay -- a series of change orders, then recent bad weather that delayed pouring asphalt -- but said the work should wrap up in a few weeks.

Several readers had doubts and thought their misery deserved a fuller explanation. They had a point: The project, from the Gulf Freeway to Kirby, started in August 2005 and was supposed to last 11 months, but is about to come in around 17.

Here's why, according to Wakeland.

First, landscaping and other beautification work was added to the part of the contract east of Texas 288 at the request of the Almeda/OST Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone.

Then, after asphalt overlay was scraped away in the Medical Center segment, inspection showed that deeper roadbed repairs than anticipated were needed. These had to be made before a new surface could be laid.

Inspection also showed that the slope of the street had to be improved to ensure good drainage. This required surveying to determine needed elevations, negotiating a contract for the added work and drafting engineering plans.

"During this time, the public could have perceived that no work was going on," Wakeland said. But it was: Curb repairs proceeded in the Medical Center segment, as did the sidewalk beautification to the east.

August of 2005, eh? It'd been so long I'd completely lost track of when it had started. Geez.

Now, regarding the causes of the delays, as I remember it they scraped the right lanes in each direction first, then started work on the sidewalks. After that was done, they did the rest of the scraping, then there was that interminable period when "the public could have perceived that no work was going on", because that sure as hell is what it looked like. I'm still not sure why they did things in this order, but I suppose I'm a little mollified to know that it wasn't planned to be this disorderly. I continue to think it should have been managed much better than it was, however.

As of this week, they are finally mostly done with the repaving. Where the work is basically done - all lanes are repaved between 288 and Cambridge - it's much more pleasant to drive on. They still need to do some turn lanes there, and they still have some traffic lanes to do farther west - the stretch between Stadium and Greenbriar was down to one lane again on Monday - but for the first time I can see light at the end of the tunnel. All I can say to that is "Hallelujah!"

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 20, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles