WURZBACH PARKWAY PROJECT NEARS END OF ROAD
By Katherine Blunt STAFF WRITER, San Antonio Express-News Sep 4, 2015

   The decades-long effort to build the Wurzbach Parkway is expected to end in early October with the completion of the section that bridges the gap between West Avenue and Jones Maltsberger Road.   Like the Golden Spike that joined the east and west tracks of the Transcontinental Railroad, the final piece of the parkway will make a continuous route of the much-awaited road built inward from its ends. The parkway adds a key east-west option for drivers traveling between I-35 and I-10 on the North Side.   The final segment also serves as a major junction between U.S. 281 and the parkway. But motorists beware: The intersection doesn’t have direct connectors. Rather, drivers will use access roads and, in some cases, turnarounds at Nakoma Drive and Bitters Road when switching between the parkway and 281.   Clayton Ripps, advanced transportation planning director for the Texas Department of Transportation’s San Antonio office, said the project’s engineers initially considered building direct connectors that would meet on a bridge over U.S. 281. But they decided on the current design because of space limitations and height restrictions on infrastructure built near International Airport, he said.   “If you drive out there now, there’s very limited space between the 281 main lanes, the frontage roads and where the Wurzbach Parkway bridges tie in,” he said. “Moving forward, we’ll start some feasibility studies again to look at some direct connectors from 281.”   Williams Brothers, the Houston-based company building the final segment, has until the end of the year to complete it. But the company is moving quickly to finish the job because it is contracted to start construction on the Loop 410-Texas 151 interchange next month, requiring it to move its crews and machines to that site.   Josh Donat, spokesman for TxDOT’s district office, said the final section of the parkway has the capacity to carry 40,000 cars each day, enough to ease some of the traffic on 410 and Loop 1604 during rush hours.   The decrease “won’t be huge, but hopefully it will be enough to make it noticeable for folks,” he said.   The opening of the parkway will be the culmination of a multimillion-dollar construction project that has progressed in fits and starts since builders broke ground on the road in 1994. They had completed 7 miles before money ran out in 2002, creating a 5-mile gap that split the parkway until Proposition 12, passed in 2009, gave TxDOT funding needed to connect the two sides.   Construction of the final portion was divided into three parts that cost a total of $124 million. The stretch from Blanco Road to West Avenue was finished in 2013, and the piece that connects Wetmore and Jones Maltsberger roads was completed earlier this year. With a $70 million price tag, the final piece of the parkway is the most expensive of the three segments.   In anticipation of the parkway opening, Coker United Methodist Church on East North Loop Road has built a driveway accessible from the eastbound access road and marked it with a lighted sign visible from the parkway. The existing entrance to the church is heavily wooded and impassable when Salado Creek floods, said Lisa Ellington, the church’s director of communications.   “It’s a little, tiny windy road that’s very secluded, and that’s how it’s been for years,” she said. “Our visibility is just exponentially going to increase.”   David Horton, manager at WiseGuys restaurant on Nakoma Drive, also has been keeping an eye on the construction. He said he’s considering opening another location near Wet-more because it will be easy to access once the parkway opens.   “If you take the Thousand Oaks exit, it will put you right there,” he said. “That will provide solid connections for Northeast Side customers.” kblunt@express-news.net   Twitter: @katherineblunt

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