Challenges with Austin Street project to keep roadway closed for several more months
Posted on 1/19/2018 7:47:00 AM.
(Seguin) -- Local residents are going to have to deal with the mess, that is the North Austin Street project, for several more months.  Texas Department of Transportation officials provided an update to the Seguin City Council on Tuesday. 
TXDOT Area Engineer Will Lockett says they had hoped to have the project reopened to two way traffic by this time, but he says it's going to be at least another six to seven months before the roadway can be reopened to northbound traffic. Lockett says their original plan was to take the road down to one way south and then one way north, as a way to speed up the project. But he says there were several problems along the way and the roadway has only been southbound for months.  It was recently shut down completely for several days. Lockett says it has since been reopened to southbound traffic only once you get south of Martindale Street. 
"Between I-10 and I believe it's Martindale, they still have the two way traffic, but in the location where we just had southbound traffic -- all we did was switch them to the other side to the new pavement. So we can still travel southbound...but you're on the other side of the road," said Lockett.
There has been a long list of challenges with this project. Lockett says a new problem has emerged, which is keeping them from executing their plan to reopen the road in both directions. He says there's problem with the way the inlets have been installed, and it's an issue that needs to be addressed now.  He says they will work on a fix, while also allowing the contractor to work on the other side of the roadway.
"I'm not trying to point fingers at the manufacturer of the inlets. I'm not trying to point fingers at the contractor. But we've had solutions with how they've been received and how they've been installed. So we're to the point to where we got to resolve the inlets. The contractors are to the point where if we do not get this resolved, they're going to move to another project. Remember we had that months ago. We had all the concerns because the contractor wasn't working. So to avoid that we made the switch. We didn't put two way traffic on the new pavement like I had promised. We still have one way traffic on the new pavement, but what that does, it benefits of course improved safety. But the main we get to maintain the project progress while allowing time for the contractor and the material supplier to resolve the inlet issues. Instead of the contractor leaving saying 'I'm going to stop until that's resolved.' We've given them the entire other side of the roadway to work on. It keeps the contractor here, keeps them moving, keeps us turning dirt. I know it's not what we agreed to before, but the project is still moving," said Lockett.
The frustration level for everyone is high when it comes to this project. That, of course, includes TXDOT and city officials as well as the business and homeowners in that area that have had their lives and livelihoods interrupted by this project -- a project that has been dragging on for months. 
Lockett apologized to the council for the delays, but he says there has been problem after problem discovered with this project. He says the latest problem with the inlets is tied to an additional feature along the roadway. 
"We're putting a five foot bike lane down North Austin Street. Well the inlet  tops are within the bike lane as well. That's how it was designed, which is ok. So they're in the bike lane and to meet our requirements. I don't want to say ADA, because it's not ADA requirements, but to meet the desired requirements of the bike lane we have to have a little more than two percent slope. Well, we installed the inlet. They're built with a four percent cross slope to allow water to drain. So we can't have that in the bike lane. Trying to solve that problem is where we're at right now. Once we get that done we'll have good drainage, (and) you can still ride a bike down north Austin Street," said Lockett.   
The news about another delay in the North Austin Street project wasn't what council members wanted to hear, but Lockett says there is a little bit of a silver lining. He says it's important to keep this project moving, and the actions they have taken now will help the contractor keep things moving.
"Putting traffic on the eastern side of the roadway allows us to start doing this excavation. There's also a water line relocation, and I believe a sanitary sewer relocation. Those should be starting within the next week or two. So allowing traffic to be stay one way on the other side of the road, pretty much opened up the other half of the project that we need to get the contractor to work on, and then we can get our utility adjustments done, while we're still solving this issue. The contractor doesn't leave. The contractor keeps working and the progress of the project keeps going," said Lockett.
Lockett says they hope to get the inlet problems repaired within the next couple months, but he stressed to the council that it will be -- at best -- six or seven months before the roadway could be reopened to two-way traffic. 
The North Austin Street project calls for the roadway to be widened and lowered. There are several utility and drainage issues also being addressed as part of the project.  
city of Seguin; TXDOT; North Austin Street

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