A San Antonio city councilman is taking corrective action to fix the city’s sidewalk troubles and lists precast concrete as a solution.
District 1 City Councilman Roberto Treviño said the current condition of San Antonio’s sidewalks includes nearly 2,000 miles of missing sidewalks in addition to numerous areas that need to be repaired or replaced. Due to the soil conditions because of the rivers and creeks converging in the area, Trevino notes the sidewalks in his area are the worst. So, while these are well known troubling factors, he was surprised to find out the city does not have a plan in place to tackle the problem.
“It really baffles me that we do not have a master plan in place, an existing condition assessment or even design or construction standards in place to handle such a big problem,” Treviño said. “So, this is what I’ve been working on.”
Treviño started on a long-term plan to address the issue by instituting a new pedestrian mobility officer as well as other positions focused on pedestrian mobility and innovation.
“Last year (2018), I took the new director and some of the city engineers to World of Concrete and expressed my concern that this department needs to go out and see what’s new,” he said. “The whole idea is to be more innovative, to be more aware of all the technologies out there, so we can deploy them. And, precast concrete is an incredible, useful technology that can be used here in San Antonio.”
He said while not all sidewalks need to be precast, areas like his district, where the predominant soil condition is clay, would make great candidates for the building material by offering more strength and durability.
“My district being the oldest is also the most built out, so construction disruption is a big deal,” he said. “The beauty of precast is we don’t have to worry about rain delays – panels can go in whether it’s raining or really cold. We can get the job done and assure people that the project will stay on time and on track.
“That’s a big benefit.”
Currently, the city uses poured-in-place concrete to repair its sidewalks. So, in order to consider using precast concrete panels as a viable solution, the city worked with a local manufacturer to complete two precast concrete panel pilot projects. City engineers were able to tour the facility and see first-hand the quality and manufacturing processes involved.
“We got to see exactly how building precast panels versus poured-in-place has so many benefits,” he said. “One of them is you’re working at much higher standards than poured-in-place. The standards are clearly higher, the product is superior, and the way we designed the panels to be both rigid and flexible is hard to beat.”
However, even after the pilot projects were completed, city officials still had myriad questions about using precast concrete.
“I actually brought this technology to them and requested that they take a look at it and we’ve been working on it, but it’s complex when they bid out to contractors,” he said. “Those contractors are more comfortable with poured-in-place concrete and do not understand how to work with precast concrete panels.”
He said the next steps for tackling the sidewalk problem is to educate the city more about the benefits of precast concrete and prepare a sidewalk master plan. In the plan, there will be clear, laid-out design standards and building standards that will be used to specify out projects to local contractors.
He hopes this momentum will continue to grow and that eventually the city’s downtown intersections will also be addressed. By using precast panels to replace the existing pavers, the city can also consider incorporating aesthetic patterns and designs that can bring to life different parts of the historic downtown.
“There is a lot of opportunity there and we’ve already done the pilot projects that the city can continue to learn from,” he said. “We just need development standards that will help us and contractors understand the expectations involved and how we can get the job finished correctly.”