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Author Topic: Ranger Hill Improvements  (Read 8659 times)

wxfree

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Ranger Hill Improvements
« on: February 06, 2017, 07:23:24 PM »

This is a relatively minor project, but one in which I've taken an interest for years.  TxDOT will be improving I-20 east of Ranger, along what's called Ranger Hill.  The existing road has an incline, with a 6% grade indicated on warning signs, and significant curves on each side of the incline.  There's also a new rest area on the westbound side at the top of the hill.  The existing hill causes trouble for some trucks.  I've seen trucks slow to as low as about 30 mph, while cars have no trouble climbing at high speeds, which causes a clear hazard.  The downhill side also can cause excessive speed, which is more hazardous due to the curve at the bottom.

The plans were released today.  I've been looking forward to seeing them.  There will be a new piece of road for about 2.4 miles, a few hundred feet south of the existing freeway.  That area has a hill with a substantial grade, but that will be reshaped to carry the new road.  The plans call for a maximum roadway grade of 3.5%.  There will be no warning signs for curves or grade (there are currently warning signs, without advisory speeds, for the curves).  There will still be "Gusty winds area" signs.  In addition to reduced curves and grade, improvements include:

A westbound (uphill) passing lane.  There will be a short temporary lane after the SH 16 entrance ramp.  After that ends there will be a passing lane on the left.  The reduced grade should cause a lot fewer slow trucks, but a third lane will still be nice to have.  I've seen truckers have to slow down behind slower trucks because they were too slow for the left lane.  With a third lane, they may be able to use the middle lane while cars pass on the left.

Continuous two-way frontage roads (if you consider that an improvement).  Currently there are no frontage roads along the hill.  The corridor will still be narrow, either cut or filled essentially the entire way.  The will be a concrete barrier separating the sides of the freeway, and separating each side of the freeway from the adjacent frontage road.  I don't think I've seen that design before.    With the frontage roads being two-way, there will be opposing traffic beside each side of the freeway lanes, which is unusual.  The rest area exit ramp will have a bridge over the frontage road, and the entrance ramp will have an underpass below it.

An increased speed limit.  The speed limit was increased to 75 along with the rest of the statewide increases, but was later reduced to 65 due to the dangerous hill and curves.  The plans call for speed limit signs of 75 along the freeway and 55 along the frontage roads.

As a side note, Ranger Hill is known for having problems during winter weather.  Multiple times people have been rescued from their stranded cars.  With the dearth of lodging in the area, some people have been sheltered in the county jail.  These improvements should make such problems less likely.
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US 81

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2017, 08:00:01 PM »

Ranger Hill is usually fun to drive "as is," but the adult part of me is happy to hear about these improvements.
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wxfree

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2017, 08:25:10 PM »

Ranger Hill is usually fun to drive "as is," but the adult part of me is happy to hear about these improvements.

I have the same thought.  For me, it's like US 67 west of Glen Rose.  I can drive through at the 70 mph speed limit if there's no one in front of me, and it's quite fun, because I know each hill and curve, but that rarely happens because drivers who are unfamiliar with the road, or in less maneuverable vehicles, go slower, which is perfectly reasonable.  (TxDOT has plans to Super-2 that road, which may or may not involve realigning.)  I had no problems at 75 in either direction on Ranger Hill, but I can understand why the interstate driver is nervous and wants to go slower, and why the state wants to make the road better.

A couple of times I came up fast on a slow truck and had to decide either to quickly get into the left lane or slow way down, which would make it difficult to speed up fast enough going uphill to get into the left lane later.  I wouldn't mind not having that happen again.
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MaxConcrete

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2017, 11:25:49 PM »

This project seemed to move through the planning process very quickly. I recall seeing meetings about it only within the last 1-2 years. (If anyone knows that it has been in public involvement much longer, please correct me.)

Estimated construction cost is $79.6 million

http://www.dot.state.tx.us/insdtdot/orgchart/cmd/cserve/let/2017/eastland.htm#000706084

wxfree

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2017, 11:50:30 PM »

This project seemed to move through the planning process very quickly. I recall seeing meetings about it only within the last 1-2 years. (If anyone knows that it has been in public involvement much longer, please correct me.)

Estimated construction cost is $79.6 million

http://www.dot.state.tx.us/insdtdot/orgchart/cmd/cserve/let/2017/eastland.htm#000706084

As noted, I've had an interest in this for years.  I haven't seen any official documents or statements, but my web history has a couple of interesting news stories.  In 2013, when the speed limit was reduced to 65 (the change was signed almost immediately after the TTC voted to approve it, which is very rare) the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote about it.  It was mentioned in the story that area residents wanted an even lower speed limit as well as mitigation of the grade and curves.  Of course, with the road being improved, there's no reason not to increase the speed limit.  The plans cover sheet even specifies a design speed of 75, which is the only time I can remember seeing an official design speed higher than 70.
http://www.star-telegram.com/news/traffic/your-commute/article3837533.html

As far as official news is concerned, less than two years ago, TxDOT signed a contract with a consultant to design the improvements.  Environmental clearance was expected by last August and project award was expected as soon as December, which was the original plan.  When the December projects didn't show this one, I checked again and saw that it had been delayed until March.  Now they're officially looking for bids.  Overall, I'd say that was pretty swift.  The new money to TxDOT may have helped to speed it along.
http://www.mineralwellsindex.com/news/keffer-announces-i--ranger-hill-improvements/article_46b28e9c-03ba-11e5-b0d6-83b6e3741ae8.html
« Last Edit: February 07, 2017, 12:03:39 AM by wxfree »
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MaxConcrete

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2017, 07:09:30 PM »

The winning bid was $76.2 million, compared to the estimate of $79.6 million. There were 11 bidders, which seems very high.

http://www.dot.state.tx.us/insdtdot/orgchart/cmd/cserve/bidtab/03083201.htm

Estimate   $79,604,509.10   % Over/Under   Company
Bidder 1   $76,238,256.10   -4.23%   ZACHRY CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION
Bidder 2   $77,888,255.58   -2.16%   SUNDT CONSTRUCTION, INC.
Bidder 3   $79,808,421.44   +0.26%   FLATIRON CONSTRUCTORS, INC.
Bidder 4   $79,922,115.35   +0.40%   A. L. HELMCAMP, INC.
Bidder 5   $83,919,830.87   +5.42%   JAY MILLS CONTRACTING, INCORPORATED
Bidder 6   $84,030,963.38   +5.56%   WEBBER, LLC
Bidder 7   $85,890,353.62   +7.90%   FLUOR ENTERPRISES, INC.
Bidder 8   $87,939,080.19   +10.47%   AMES CONSTRUCTION, INC.
Bidder 9   $89,566,334.99   +12.51%   MARIO SINACOLA & SONS EXCAVATING, INC.
Bidder 10   $90,000,000.00   +13.06%   FISHER SAND & GRAVEL CO.
Bidder 11   $91,490,999.90   +14.93%   THE LANE CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION

wxfree

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2017, 04:16:50 PM »

The contract was awarded at yesterday's TTC meeting.  It's now official.

ftp://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot/commission/2017/0328/11a.pdf
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Brian556

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2018, 01:24:05 AM »

Nice Pics. The new grade looks very wide. The barrels that they are using are in "unacceptable condition". TxDOT should not be allowing the contractor to use them.
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wxfree

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2018, 11:14:53 AM »

Thanks for the update.  Those are nice photos.  I look forward to driving on the new road.

Due to the topography the entire section is either cut or filled, so to minimize the footprint it's being built essentially as a single roadway, 193 feet wide.  This includes 9 lanes with room for a 10th (a future third downhill lane), 8 shoulders, and concrete barriers.  I don't see how wide the grade is, but it includes 1,622,157 of cuts and 2,074,663 of fills, in whatever unit they use.
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SquonkHunter

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2018, 12:58:56 PM »

Good to see this bottleneck finally being corrected. I have had several bad experiences there over the years with traffic backing up due to slow moving trucks trying to pass even slower moving trucks going up the grade.
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Chris

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2019, 07:51:06 AM »

That Street View was taken around the same time as MaxConcrete's photos in March 2018.

Satellite imagery has not been updated yet.

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2019, 03:38:42 PM »

Thanks for the update.  Those are nice photos.  I look forward to driving on the new road.

Due to the topography the entire section is either cut or filled, so to minimize the footprint it's being built essentially as a single roadway, 193 feet wide.  This includes 9 lanes with room for a 10th (a future third downhill lane), 8 shoulders, and concrete barriers.  I don't see how wide the grade is, but it includes 1,622,157 of cuts and 2,074,663 of fills, in whatever unit they use.

Minimize the footprint?  Unfortunate that they did not have foresight to improve the median separation in the area.  Given it is rural/semi rural area, a variable width median with 88 foot minimum would have been preferred.   By the Google map, guessing the entire stretch of 20 in that area features late fifties minimum median widths, so they simply matched that.   
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wxfree

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2019, 04:05:07 PM »

There is no median in the new section.  The four roadways will be separated by concrete barriers, which will be separated from the travel lanes by shoulders.  The shoulders will be 10 feet on each side on the freeway lanes, plus a 12 foot future lane on the eastbound side making for a 22 foot wide left shoulder.  The width is being minimized to reduce the cost of the project.  Adding a median 88 feet wide would be enormously expensive, because it would all have to be graded or it would be either a rock wall or a death chasm.
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DJStephens

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2019, 04:25:09 PM »

Just saying that since entire roadway is being relocated, and because it is not in an urban area, it could have been improved aesthetically and geometrically by increasing the distance between opposing main lines.   Going back to the fifties is not a good direction, imho.   
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MaxConcrete

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2019, 11:11:35 PM »

it could have been improved aesthetically   

Unfortunately TxDOT does a very poor job of designing wide medians and retaining natural foliage. TxDOT has always been an underperformer in median aesthetics, and the only period with some good designs occurred in the late 1960s, for example a few sections on I-45 between Houston and Dallas.

Today's design standard at TxDOT seems to be no median, with 12-foot-wide concrete inner shoulders and central concrete barrier. It's basically implemented with no variation, which is very boring. For example, a section of 2x2 IH-35E near Hillsboro about to go under construction has a wide median around 60 feet wide, but it's going to be fully paved over in the process of widening to 3x3. (There is ample right-of-way to widen on the right sides of the existing roadway).

I prefer a varying design style, for example alternating sections with wide medians with natural foliage, standard medians and maybe no median when suitable. Florida interstates are very good in this regard. Plenty of other states also do a very good job, although those designs also date back to the 1960s.

wxfree

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #18 on: August 10, 2019, 10:10:29 PM »

I just now remembered this.  TxDOT has some traffic cameras set up to monitor Ranger Hill.  They're there to watch traffic, but they're also watching construction progress.  At the moment, the Top of Ranger Hill image doesn't show anything interesting, but the middle and bottom images show what's going on (I assume the cameras are turned as needed, so the views may change).

http://its.txdot.gov/ITS_WEB/FrontEnd/default.html?r=BWD&p=Eastland%20Area&t=cctv

The huge piles of dirt at the bottom of the hill are there to raise the road above the natural ground level.  The plans show the road being elevated about 55 feet in that area, to stretch out the slope and make it less steep.  The grade is 3.5% (reduced from 6%) and the new ground will meet the natural ground level where the new SH 16 exit ramp will begin.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2019, 10:41:33 PM by wxfree »
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DJStephens

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #19 on: August 11, 2019, 12:25:24 PM »

it could have been improved aesthetically   

Unfortunately TxDOT does a very poor job of designing wide medians and retaining natural foliage. TxDOT has always been an underperformer in median aesthetics, and the only period with some good designs occurred in the late 1960s, for example a few sections on I-45 between Houston and Dallas.

Today's design standard at TxDOT seems to be no median, with 12-foot-wide concrete inner shoulders and central concrete barrier. It's basically implemented with no variation, which is very boring. For example, a section of 2x2 IH-35E near Hillsboro about to go under construction has a wide median around 60 feet wide, but it's going to be fully paved over in the process of widening to 3x3. (There is ample right-of-way to widen on the right sides of the existing roadway).

I prefer a varying design style, for example alternating sections with wide medians with natural foliage, standard medians and maybe no median when suitable. Florida interstates are very good in this regard. Plenty of other states also do a very good job, although those designs also date back to the 1960s.

Have seen that in El Paso District as well.  The "spur 601" a dumb designation, btw, used a central CBR (concrete barrier rail) or double faced Jersey barrier with a minimum four/six foot left shoulder for its eastern four lane section.  Plenty of room existed for a gravel/earth median with cable barrier instead. 
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wxfree

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #20 on: July 26, 2020, 04:59:49 PM »

Google Maps shows the eastbound lanes on the new location.  All lanes of the freeway are on the new roadway.  Westbound traffic is in the new eastbound lanes, and eastbound traffic is on the new frontage road.  The old westbound lanes are being used as a ramp to the rest area.  I got some photos today.  My first time to drive on the new road was eastbound (downhill).  When the descent started, I could feel an expectation that it would get steeper, because that's what the old hill did.  But there's only a slight increase in grade, which you won't notice if you're not watching for it.  The hill is still a problem for trucks.  While I was photographing, I could hear the trucks struggle.  Some of them turned on flashers.  I saw two oversize loads slow down to very low speeds.  Some trucks, probably empty or lightly loaded, went up fine.  Driving up it was no problem at all in a car.  Trucks will still struggle, which is why it's good they're putting in the third lane on the uphill side, for slow trucks, faster trucks, and cars.  There's room on the downhill side for a third lane, but it will just be a wide shoulder for now.  I parked at the rest area and hiked down and back up the hill with a camera.  That 6% grade is a somewhat steep climb.

Note that the telephoto lens compresses the axis leading into the distance.  That makes the curves look much sharper than they are.  Part of the new freeway looks like it should have roller coaster rails.  That's an illusion caused by viewing it in two dimensions.

Here I'm about level with the old freeway, before the steep drop.  The new lanes are already down.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1189.jpg

The hill starts earlier.  This is still up at the top of the old hill.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1192.jpg

This shows the current end of the new westbound pavement.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1193.jpeg

I'm standing on the old westbound lanes.  The right lane is now the temporary ramp to the rest area.  Equipment is parked on the old eastbound lanes, across the barrier.  In the distance, you can see where the hill gets steeper.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1194.jpeg

The steady hill is making its way down where the old steep hill was just getting started.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1196.jpeg

It was a fun hill.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1198.jpeg

Here you can see the road the rest of the way down.  There's some lens flare that I didn't notice at the bottom.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1203.jpeg

This is zoomed in more, and shows all the way back to the SH 16 bridge.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1204.jpeg

Toward the top of the hill, the new road is lower.  Toward the bottom, it's higher.  The old road is closer to the natural ground level.  The new road is above it.  The plans shows elevations as high as 65 feet above the previous ground level.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1211.jpeg

The hills start to drop rapidly.  Building a high-speed road here is a challenge.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1213.jpeg

Here you can see the path followed by the old road and the new road.  The freeway at the bottom of the hill is gone.  Traffic to the rest area follows the frontage road to a makeshift ramp.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1215.jpeg

They piled a bunch of dirt from where they cut down the hills.  This is in the eastbound lanes, where only construction vehicles go.  They kept one lane clear.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1221.jpeg

This is the second of two apparently very heavy trucks carrying what appears to be the same thing at a low speed up the hill.  It will be good to have two truck lanes and a car lane once it's all built.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1230.jpeg

Here's a view of the new and old roads and how they're shaped.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1233.jpeg

Here's a little more.  This is unrelated to the project.  It's just some road porn.

The rest area is right beside part of the Bankhead Highway and old SH 1, where they followed the original route up that hill.  Here's a historical marker.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1261.jpeg

This historic route marker is very near the drive in the rest area.  It's along an old stretch of highway that is not accessible, by vehicle, to the public.  But you can park by the historical marker and walk to it.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1263.jpeg

Fort Worth is this way.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1264.jpeg

Abilene is that way.  The pavement is in decent condition, but the lanes are about 8 feet wide.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1265.jpeg

These last two are just pretty.  This is the view to the east.  The SH 16 bridge is on the left.  It's about 1.5 miles away.  The Tudor Rd. bridge in the middle is about 3 miles away.  The cell tower in the distance is 5 miles away.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1206.jpeg

You can tell where this one is.
http://patternsandprinciples.com/rs/rh/DSC_1273.jpeg
« Last Edit: July 26, 2020, 07:19:01 PM by wxfree »
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MaxConcrete

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #21 on: July 26, 2020, 09:44:52 PM »

Nice pics, thanks for posting. I was wondering if the project was complete yet, since I posted the photos back in March 2018. It looks like it should be done around the end of the year.

I see that highway lighting is installed on the grade section. It is unusual for TxDOT to use lighting on rural highways away from intersections.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2020, 09:54:59 PM by MaxConcrete »
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wxfree

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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #22 on: July 26, 2020, 10:47:28 PM »

Nice pics, thanks for posting. I was wondering if the project was complete yet, since I posted the photos back in March 2018. It looks like it should be done around the end of the year.

I see that highway lighting is installed on the grade section. It is unusual for TxDOT to use lighting on rural highways away from intersections.

I'm glad they put it here, especially because they use barriers, which makes the road feel more confined.  Being able to see what the road does all the way up or down the hill will make drivers more comfortable, which makes them less likely to make mistakes.
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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #23 on: July 27, 2020, 04:04:37 PM »

I wonder how the changes will affect driving through this area in the winter.  Almost every year, it seemed to occur at least once, either a closure of this part of I-20, or very stern warnings from TxDPS or the various news media to avoid the area.
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Re: Ranger Hill Improvements
« Reply #24 on: July 27, 2020, 04:46:43 PM »

I wonder how the changes will affect driving through this area in the winter.  Almost every year, it seemed to occur at least once, either a closure of this part of I-20, or very stern warnings from TxDPS or the various news media to avoid the area.

I would expect closures to be significantly less frequent because the easing of the curves and the reduction of maximum grade from 6% to 3.5% gives more flexibility in maneuvering when the road ices up.  (The stylized fact is that a tire contact patch can tolerate lateral acceleration of up to 70% of gravity in the dry, and this is cut by a factor of ten when there is ice.  This is one reason designers choose 8% or even lower values as maximum superelevation in areas that are prone to icing.)  However, blowing snow can trigger closures even in flat country where road alignments are typically generous.
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