Experts: San Antonio’s Finesilver Curve tricky to navigate, fix

Curve especially tricky for 18-wheelers carrying liquids or other large loads

SAN ANTONIO – For years, the Finesilver Curve in downtown San Antonio has caused headaches for drivers. And traffic engineers say a fix won’t be easy.

The connection between I-35 southbound and I-10 westbound runs close to the historic Finesilver Building. The result is a curve in which drivers really have to slow down to navigate. But often that’s not done successfully, sometimes it results in a scrape against the wall.

Other times, 18-wheelers crash that cause hours of delays and disruption. Those vehicles, especially ones who are carrying liquid or other loads, are particularly vulnerable.

“With the liquid loads and the tall vehicles, the center of gravity plays a big, big role on a curve like this,” said Jose Weissman, professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “The vehicle would overturn, basically, as we have observed on different events that happened on that curve.”

The Texas Department of Transportation is in the middle of a years-long traffic study to examine safety in the area. No matter the result of the study, a full-scale teardown of the curve is unlikely, because of the disruptions it would likely cause.

“Basically, you cannot redesign it because of the constraints. So now, you give warnings,” Weissman said. “And if the yellow signs are not enough, you start using active signage, which is what you have there now.”

In the meantime, other safety measures include a speed limit of 25 mph. After a hazmat situation following a spill two decades ago, vehicles carrying hazardous materials are now banned from the curve.

“I guess the way we manage our highways is on a reactive mode,” Weissman said. “I wish we could have a crystal ball and forecast all the kinds of things that could happen on a specific segment. But we don’t know.”

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