Construction of a $15.1 million highway underpass that has been going on in the San Antonio area since April has been halted – indefinitely – due to a rare species of spider that hasn’t been seen in more than 30 years.
KSAT reports the Texas Department of Transportation constructing the underpass to ease area congestion at state highway 151 and loop 1604. The project has been paused for nearly two weeks though as Braken Bat Cave Meshweaver was discovered near the roadwork after being exposed by rainfall.
The project is on hold as the DOT re-evaluates the situation since the uncovering of the eyeless arachnid. WOAI reports a department spokesperson saying the delay is not costing the project more money, it’s just on hold. It reports Josh Donat with the state’s DOT saying it is working with biologists on a plan to modify the project so it can move forward. He said to WOAI there is a likelihood more spiders are in the ground underneath the site.
The Houston Chronicle has more on the history of the spider in the area and biologists’ reactions to its discovery:
To find a Braken Bat Cave meshweaver was a discovery of another kind altogether, akin to “stumbling on a new Galapagos Island in terms of the biological significance of the region,” said biologist Jean Krejca, president of Zara Environmental, a consultant for the Texas Department of Transportation.
Well-known hydro-geologist George Veni first identified the spider in 1980 in northwest Bexar County, about 5 miles from the construction site. The spider’s genus species classification reflects its namesake: Cicurina venii.
But the cave where Veni found it was later filled, and now is covered by a residential development. The Braken Bat Cave meshweaver spider hadn’t been seen since.
The Chronicle reports the the dime-size spider as non-venomous to humans. It became considered an endangered species in 2000. The San Antonio Express-News has more photos of biologists at the discovery site here.
The road project was expected to be completed by next summer, but it is unclear how that goal will be affected at this point.
KSAT reports local resident Rick Gomez questioning what will happen with the project due to the new discovery.
“Are they going to reroute the project?” Gomez said to KSAT. “Are they going to start a new project because the ramp would help.”