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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Road Warrior

Ramiro Garcia ’91, M.S. ’97 has the job of fixing some of the worst highway problems in Texas

Having grown up about 10 minutes from UTSA’s Main Campus, Ramiro Garcia remembers when Loop 1604 was just a narrow two-lane circle cutting a swath through the rural outskirts of San Antonio. In those early days of the highway, a lack of lighting and drivers’ penchant for speeding down the long straightaways earned 1604 the nickname of the Death Loop.

But, as any motorist who’s driven along Loop 1604 lately knows, what was once a country road where a driver could go miles without seeing another motorist has, in some parts, become one of the biggest traffic headaches in the city.

And it is now part of Garcia’s job as an engineer to provide relief. He currently is the director of operations in the Dallas office of consulting firm HNTB Corp. “My best day at work is being able to design the projects,” Garcia says, “and then to drive on that highway or roadway and say this is good for improving people’s quality of life.”

Garcia started his career at the Texas Department of Transportation after graduating with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering. He’s working with TxDOT again but this time as the program manager for HTNB’s Central/South Texas General Engineering Consultant contract with the state agency. Along with overseeing the new $800 million Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi, as well as the $82 million restoration of U.S. Route 77, he’s also monitoring jobs throughout the Eagle Ford Shale area, where there are 31 projects to resurface roadways.

But the one project that hits home is in his old backyard—adding four main lanes and frontage roads to Loop 1604 from Bandera Road to Culebra Road. The project is the first phase in an expansion plan expected to bring relief to one of the city’s most congested roadways and a constant source of consternation for commuters. The high volume of vehicles is the biggest complexity to work around for the project, he says.

“I was just out there a couple weeks ago,” Garcia says. “It was midmorning—not known as a peak time—and traffic was still backed up. It’s a constant gridlock that contractors have to work around and maintain the safety of travelers and workers.” But once it’s completed, he adds, the work should meet demand for the next 20 years.

Building for future generations is one reason he loves being an engineer. Garcia says it was his father who helped him decide to pursue that career path. “My parents joked with me that I liked to build things and then destroy them, and one night my dad threw out that idea. I was a freshman in high school. My brother is an electrical engineer and had already graduated from UTSA when I enrolled. We are the first generation to have college degrees, and education was very important to my parents. I like to say that UTSA succeeded with our family.”


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