Construction on the South Alamo Street bridge on Oct. 22, 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Construction on the South Alamo Street bridge on Oct. 22, 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

After two years to the date, City officials say, the South Alamo Street bridge will finally reopen at the end of October. The initial completion date for the entire construction project that started with street improvements on both ends of the bridge was set for August, but we all know how major construction project deadlines work – they typically don’t.

A ribbon cutting ceremony and parade organized by the King William Neighborhood Association will officially open the bridge on Nov. 1 at the intersection of Guenther and South Alamo streets from 10 a.m. to noon. The Blue Star Arts Complex will host an open house following the event.

The initial total project cost according to the City’s Department of Transportation and Capital Improvements (TCI) staff was $6.1 million, including utilities, but after the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) workers encountered delays while installing a complex sewer siphoning project, the project cost jumped to $7.2 million.

Project map courtesy of TCI.
Project map courtesy of TCI.

“The increase in budget is a result of the construction stakeholders incurring additional costs due to unforeseen events, such as an extended work timeline by SAWS,” stated April Alcoser, spokesperson for TCI, in an email. “We also had unforeseen field conditions such as the discovery of an excessive amount of concrete trolley track buried under the pavement that needed to be removed, as well as utility conflicts.”

Don’t expect perfection on Nov. 1. There is still work to be done on the sidewalk and landscaping – including trees and tree grates – and pedestrian lighting fixtures will be installed. The remaining work is to be completed by the end of December, expect some additional – but temporary – closures.

During the morning rush hour these days, cars line up on Guenther Street in front of the San Antonio River Authority’s office to take the three-block detour via Main Avenue and Probandt Street to cross the San Antonio River. The South Alamo Street bridge has been closed for about a year while it undergoes a major structural renovation, blocking the main entrance to Blue Star Arts Complex and all the shops, galleries, restaurants, and bars within, as well as the adjacent Guenther House.

None of the businesses have had to close their doors due to the construction, but they certainly have been missing out on that casual, passerby business. While the back entrance off of Probandt Street is well-indicated, the signage and building facades are not nearly as inviting as the main entrance off South Alamo Street.

Construction on the South Alamo Street bridge on Oct. 24, 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Construction on the South Alamo Street bridge on Oct. 24, 2014, as seen from Halcyon’s balcony. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Pedestrians and cyclists continued to use the narrow sidewalk on the bridge’s south side throughout construction, but were often joined by the smell of sewage in the heat of summer as SAWS replaced a 12-inch water line and a 36-inch sewer line under the San Antonio River.

Other improvements include roadway reconstruction from four narrow-lanes to proposed three-lane (center turn lane) wider sidewalks, curb ramps that meet ADA standards, pedestrian crosswalks, a pedestrian “refuge island,” landscaping, and CPS Energy gas main and AT&T fiber optic line replacement. The engineer hired by the City for the project is GKW Engineering. The contractor is J3 Company. TCI, CPS Energy, AT&T, and SAWS all have collaborated on the project.

Construction on the South Alamo Street bridge on Oct. 6, 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Construction on the South Alamo Street bridge on Oct. 6, 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Construction began more than two years ago on the first phase of the project, which included improvements on the section of South Alamo Street between Guenther and Pereida Streets. The work diverted trolley and tour bus routes onto South Main Avenue that will be eventually be moved back to serve Blue Star visitor traffic.

Just a few blocks away, Phase II and III of street improvements, paid for by HEB to accommodate its new grocery store on the corner of East César Chávez Boulevard and South Flores Street – and ultimately the closure of a section of South Main Avenue for its new headquarters – are underway.

Here is an update on that construction, as provided by the project update sent out earlier this month:

Phase II – Traffic Signal Improvements

Work to install the traffic signal poles has been completed.  The traffic signals will improve traffic and pedestrian flow.

  1. The installation of two signals at S. Flores & Arsenal and C. Chávez and S. Flores are complete and operating. The contractor is waiting on the illuminated street sign plaques to mount on the signal poles. Estimated arrival and installation is four to six weeks.
  2. The ramps at C. Chávez & S. Flores are in progress and almost complete. This week the contractor will pour the ramp at NE corner of S. Flores Street and Arsenal Street and the ramp at the NW corner of C. Chávez and S. Flores Street.These intersections will be milled and overlayed with asphalt.  This work is expected to be scheduled no later than the week of Oct.20.
  3. This week the contractor will begin grading and forming the Whitley driveway.

Phase III – Bike / pedestrian path improvements

Bike and pedestrian path improvements, including those at the Commander’s House, are currently underway. Estimated completion is November 2014.

  1. Bike and pedestrian improvements along S. Flores will continue and will require a lane closure of one northbound lane on S. Flores between Arsenal and Chávez. The contractor will continue to grade and form more sections of bike path and sidewalk along S. Flores Street. This closure is expected to remain through Dec. 5.
  2. Contractor continues to work on the deceleration lane at C. Chávez and Dwyer and the site work for the guardhouse package at Whitley and S. Flores St.

After the bike lanes, landscaping, widened sidewalks and traffic mitigation improvements have been constructed – which is expected to take six to eight months total and cost $4 million – S. Main Avenue will be closed to public access. HEB will then begin the more than nine-month construction of “Flores Market” (working title) store and the remaining $100 million master plan.

H-E-B master plan renderings courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.
H-E-B master plan renderings courtesy of Lake/Flato Architects.

In case you missed it, this was a hotly-debated closure. While it passed unanimously at City Council, the King William Neighborhood was strongly divided on whether or not to sell the street to HEB. Signs that signal opposition to the project, “Save Our Streets,” can still be seen on several nearby homes.

Read more about HEB’s master plan here and more on the street closure here.

The combined completion of these projects will certainly make for a very different Southtown in a just a few years – a neighborhood that has already changed in the last five years. Add to that the Big Tex construction site designed by Alamo Architects just down the river, which will add a 320-unit residential area, 6,000 square feet of retail space, and a restaurant.

Brace yourself, Southtown.

*Featured/top image: Construction on the South Alamo Street bridge on Oct. 22, 2014. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

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Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. She was the San Antonio Report's...