Scott Ball / Rivard Report
City officials convened at Fox Park Monday afternoon to mark the completion of the West Hausman Road Improvement Project, the most expensive roadway improvement in City history. The project was funded by $43.5 million from the 2012 Bond Program, $15.8 million from Bexar County, $7.7 million from the San Antonio Water System, $3.9 million from CPS Energy, $1.7 million from 2007 Bond savings, and $1.3 million from the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department.
The project made significant improvements to an intensely trafficked, 3.4 mile stretch of Hausman Road that runs from Loop 1604 to I-10. Congestion relief and flooding at low-water crossings posed the greatest challenges for planners, but additional improvements accompanied the project, including wide pedestrian sidewalks and bike paths sheltered from vehicle traffic by trees and other landscaping, and connections to the hike and bike trails along nearby Leon Creek. Rain runoff into the creek will be filtered by grassy medians.
The project involved real-time planning by the City, Bexar County, CPS Energy, and SAWS to take a project that could have taken years longer to complete and project-manage it into an on-time, on-budget process. Still, as San Antonio continues to sprawl, there are many other road projects like Hausman Road on the waiting list that will require significant bond dollars, and while those projects are intended to reduce traffic congestion and address quality of life issues for neighbors, the investments do not yield any direct economic development.
Interestingly, a 2017 Bond street improvement project calls for the portion of Broadway Street from Houston Street downtown to Hildebrand Avenue to undergo a $43 million redesign, which advocates believe will generate significant private sector investment along a corridor already under redevelopment centered around the Pearl, the Broadway Cultural Corridor, and River North.
Councilman Ron Nirenberg (D8) praised the City's ability to complete a project of this magnitude on time and within budget.
"This was an incredibly complicated project and a design-build process delivery that will become a model for future roadway construction in the city," he said. "All of you worked diligently and corroboratively to make this project a reality."
He added that the improvements to the roadway will help combat present and future challenges to a growing city.
"Demographers project that within the next three decades our population in San Antonio will double. The Texas State Demographic Center says that we're adding about 100 cars a day to the roadways, and by 2040 commute times are expected to increase 75% across the city," Nirenberg explained. "The answer to this challenge is exemplified by this project. A strategic connection that relieves congestion ... and incorporates low-impact design and drainage systems along with alternative methods of transportation."
City Manager Sheryl Sculley praised the project's "design-build" framework, meaning the design and construction entities collaborated under one contract.
"This is the first horizontal project that we have done 'design-build,'" she said. "The State of Texas only allows so many projects to be done in this way because they want to see whether or not they can be successful. Wouldn't you agree that using this methodology has enabled us to complete this project under budget and on time?"
Mayor Ivy Taylor said that the project realizes the vision of former District 8 Councilman Reed Williams.
"This project took an army to complete. I'd like to thank the many foot soldiers in that army, starting with my good friend, former Councilman Reed Williams, who devoted his 2012 Bond allocation so that this project could be completed in five years instead of 15," she said.
She added that projects like the Hausman Road improvement will enhance life for the whole city, and strengthen the 2017 Bond package.
"These are the kind of projects that will move our city forward," she said, "that bring resilience and activity, and a greater quality of life to not just the residents of District 8 but to our entire city."
The project's public art installation was unveiled at the Monday afternoon press conference. Seven 13-foot tall aluminum sculptures line the stretch of Hausman Road visible from the Leon Creek Greenway. Entitled "Leon Creek Crossing," Tucson artist Barbara Grygutis was inspired by the organic shapes of the live oak trees along the greenway. She added blue LED lights for nighttime illumination.