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San Antonio Freeway System
History

This page last updated December 06, 2010

Animated freeway history map
Below is the best history of the San Antonio area freeway system that I can assemble.  The information on this page was compiled from various sources including old city maps, newspaper articles, and an array of highway plans and documents.  Many thanks to the San Antonio Central Library Texana section for their assistance in locating those materials.

This page covers the history of the expansion of the overall system and not capacity expansions on individual freeways.  Details of those capacity and reconstruction projects are available on the individual freeway pages elsewhere on this site.

For other historical maps and photos, see the photo gallery page.
 



For historical photos and maps, see the media galleries.

General

San Antonio began to plan and develop its freeway system during World War II.  Maps from the early 1940s show "Interstate Highways and Expressways for post-war construction."  Since then, numerous freeway proposals have been advanced.  Not all of them were implemented, but most were, leading to the system that is in place today.  Below are maps and descriptions of the system (both completed and proposed) at various points during the last 70 years.  The years chosen were those for which I could find definitive information.

Early freeways here replaced existing US and State Highways and initially carried those route numbers.  It wasn't until the early and mid '60s that Interstate shields began appearing on local freeways.  For consistency and ease of reference, I refer to the current route designation of the roadways in the discussions below.  For reference, here is a list of the early highway designations, including the pre-US highway designations and the pre-freeway routing of those roads.

TODAY U.S. HWY PRE-U.S. HWY
DESIGNATION
PRE-FREEWAY ROUTING
I-10
WEST
US 87 SH 9 SH 27 Fredericksburg Rd., N. Flores St.
I-10
EAST
US 90 SH 3 E. Commerce St.
I-35
NORTH
US 81 SH 2 Broadway, Austin Hwy., Randolph Blvd.
I-35
SOUTH
US 81 SH 2 S. Alamo St., Nogalitos St., New Laredo Hwy.
I-37 US 181 SH 16 S. Presa St.
US 90
WEST
US 90 SH 3 W. Commerce St., Old Hwy 90 W
US 281
NORTH
US 281 SH 66 San Pedro Ave.
N/A LP 13 LP 410 Today's I-410 east of NW Military Hwy. to Austin Hwy., then south along today's I-35N to WW White Rd., then along today's routing of WW White Rd. and SE/SW Military Dr. (LP 13) to US 90W.


Pre-1945

Pre-1945 map
Map legend

During the construction of San Antonio's freeway system, several existing sections of US and State routes in the outlying areas were upgraded to freeways.  The maps on this page show those sections in dark gray as "sub-freeway roadways" until the time they're upgraded.


1945

1945 map
Map legend

Maps from the mid 1940s show the earliest proposal for an urban expressway network.  That proposal included today's "Downtown Y" sections of I-10 and I-35 as well as the entire route of today's I-35 North.  I-35 South was proposed to follow Nogalitos from its intersection with present-day I-35 down to New Lardedo Hwy., then south along that roadway to its present-day intersection with I-35, then south along present-day I-35 from there.  I-10 West was proposed to roughly follow the rail line from downtown to NW Bexar County.  I-10 East was proposed to approach the city along the present day I-10, then run along a northwest diagonal route from near WW White to I-35 at N. New Braunfels Ave.  Today's Loop 410 between NW Military Hwy. and Austin Hwy. was already in place as a four lane highway and was part of Loop 13.


1952

1952 map
Map legend

The city's first freeway, a 0.7 mile section of I-10 West from Woodlawn to Culebra, opened in July 1949.  A few months later, the section from Culebra to Frio opened and a year later the freeway was extended from Frio to Martin.  I-35 South from Guadalupe to Nogalitos opened in late 1952.  The proposal for I-10 West had been modified to run slightly further to the west, meeting with Fredericksburg Rd. near Huebner.  The I-35 South proposal had been modified to use today's alignment as far south as Zarzamora, then to proceed toward the west to New Laredo Hwy., then south from there.  The I-10 East proposal was unchanged.  A proposal to extend Loop 410 to the west of NW Military Hwy. would have routed it to the intersection of Callaghan and Fredericksburg.


1957

1957 map
Map legend

Big parts of today's freeway system were planned or under construction by 1957.  I-35 had been completed from Guadalupe north to Broadway and was under construction south to Division.  The first section of Loop 410, from Culebra to Bandera, opened in 1956, followed the next year by the section from Fredericksburg to San Pedro.  Loop 410 from Bandera to Fredericksburg, San Pedro to Broadway, and US 90 to Pearsall were under construction.  The latest proposals for I-10 West and I-35 South were for the alignments that would eventually be built.  The originally proposed routing for I-10 East inside Loop 410 had been scrapped, but no alternative had yet been proposed.


1959

1959 map
Map legend

The western half of Loop 410 was now either complete or under construction.  I-35 was complete south to Division Ave. and was under construction south to Zarzamora and north to Artesia Rd. (now AT&T Center Pkwy.)  I-10 West was now under construction from Woodlawn to just north of Huebner.


1961

1961 map
Map legend

Substantial sections of freeway were now open to traffic.  The western arc of Loop 410, from Broadway around to I-35 South, was complete.  However, only the section of 410 from I-10 West to I-35 South carried the Interstate 410 shield; the section east of I-10 was marked as State Loop 410 because it did not meet Interstate standards.  I-35 north of the town of Fratt was now open, and I-35 South was complete as far as Zarzamora.  I-10 West was now complete from Woodlawn to where it joined with the existing US 87 (Fredericksburg Rd.) just north of Huebner.  Construction was underway to close the gap on I-35 North and to complete I-35 South to the county line.  The section of I-10 East from Houston St. eastward was also under construction as was most of Loop 410 on the Southside.  I-37 made its first appearance as a proposed freeway and the present-day routing of I-10 East inside of Loop 410 as well as the remainder of Loop 410 on the southeast side were finally on the drawing board as well.


1964

1964 map
Map legend

With federal Interstate Highway funding now pouring-in, freeway construction and planning in San Antonio was proceeding at a fevered pitch.  Virtually all of the freeways that were proposed in 1957 were now complete or nearing completion.  In 1962, I-35 had become the first metropolitan Interstate in Texas to be fully completed.  I-10 West was now under construction from Fredericksburg Rd. to Leon Springs.  I-10 East was complete east of Houston St.  Loop 410 on the Southside had been extended from I-35 east to Roosevelt, and most of the eastern arc from WW White to I-35 North was complete as well.  The first section of a newly proposed freeway, US 90 West, was just starting construction.  Additional routes were now on the drawing boards including Spur 371 (the "Kelly Access Freeway", now General Hudnell Dr.) and the never-built Bandera Freeway.  The projected route for it was along Bandera Rd. starting at Huebner, crossing Loop 410, then shifting slightly west of Bandera Rd. and continuing southeast nearly to Guadalupe, then east to I-35 and along today's Cesar Chavez to I-37, then east and northeast to end at Commerce between Hackberry and New Braunfels Ave.  The first proposal of what would be a very controversial freeway, the North Expressway (US 281 North), was also now public.  Two small freeway connectors, neither of which were ever built, were planned for the North Expressway: San Pedro Ave. north of Loop 410 to US 281 would have been upgraded to a freeway, and The St. Mary's Connector, running parallel to St. Mary's St., would have connected US 281 to I-35 just north of downtown.  It would have also featured a downtown feeder spur in conjunction with elaborate distribution ramps for the other freeways surrounding downtown.  Finally, the first sections of the two-lane FM 1604 were now complete across the Northside from Bandera Rd. to I-10 East.


1967

1967 map
Map legend

Freeway construction continued to move forward full-steam in preparation for the 1968 World's Fair ("HemisFair").  By 1967, the bulk of today's freeway system was complete or under construction.  All of Loop 410 was now done, but the section from I-10 West to I-35 North still carried the State Loop 410 designation; it would not see an Interstate 410 shield until mid-1969.  The first section of US 90 West as far as Cupples was open as was the section from Loop 410 to today's Old Hwy. 90.  SP 371 was also complete.  I-37 was under construction from Florida St. to US 181.  All of the two-lane FM 1604 north of US 90 was now complete as well.  The Bandera Freeway proposal was unchanged, but the two connector proposals for the North Expressway appear to have been scrapped by this time.


1968

1968 map
Map legend

As HemisFair opened, most of the city's freeway system was in place.  All of I-10 and I-35 was open.  US 90 West was complete to Loop 410, and I-37 between Florida St. and SE Military was done.  The section of I-37 between Florida St. and I-35 was under construction and was temporarily paved and used for parking for the fair.


1973

1973 map
Map legend

The early 1970s saw lots of controversy over the proposed US 281 North and, to a lesser extent, the Bandera Freeway.  Work on the undisputed northern and southern parts of US 281 had begun in 1969, but was suspended in 1971 while the matter was debated in court.  In late 1973, Congress allowed the state and city to complete the freeway without federal funding and work resumed on the original projects.  Meanwhile, the original Bandera Freeway route had been scrapped due to city official's concerns about its path through an urban renewal area.  A new proposal (now being called the "Hill Country Expressway") routed the freeway along Culebra from I-10 to FM 1604 instead.  In addition, an "inner-city bypass" freeway was proposed for the near West Side.  It would have followed the railroad tracks from I-10 and Culebra to US 90 at Zarzamora.  Its purpose was to provide a connection to Kelly AFB from the West and Northwest sides and ease worsening congestion along the original "Downtown-Y" freeways.  Amid the controversies, I-37 had been completed downtown and south to US 181, and work had started from there south to the Loop 1604 area.


1979

1979 map
Map legend

The fierce controversy over US 281 North was finally over and the freeway opened in 1978.  However, the Hill Country Expressway proposal had been scrapped by this time.  The last sections of FM 1604 south of the city were now under construction, and the road would soon be renamed Loop 1604.


1984

1984 map
Map legend

By the mid '80s, growth was approaching the northern sections of Loop 1604.  As a result, an upgrade of the loop to a freeway was underway I-10 West to US 281 North and around I-35 North, and was planned between US 281 and I-35. 


1987

1987 map
Map legend

The Loop 1604 upgrade from I-10 to US 281 was done as was the Loop 1604/I-35 North interchange, and work was progressing to upgrade 1604 between US 281 and I-35.  Plans to upgrade US 281 north of Bitters to Loop 1604 were announced, and the access roads for SH 151 outside Loop 410 were under construction (not indicated on map).


1990

1990 map
Map legend

The most heavily traveled sections of Loop 1604 across the Northside had now been upgraded to a freeway, ending the days of the "Death Loop", so-called because of the high number of fatal accidents that had occurred along it.  Plans were now in the works to extend the western end of the freeway south to Bandera Rd.  Work to upgrade US 281 North between Bitters and Loop 1604 was completed in record time, and the SH 151 access roads were now complete along its entire route.  Initial proposals for an "East-West Parkway" to relieve traffic on Loops 410 and 1604 had been announced.


2000

2000 map
Map legend

As the new millennium started, short sections of freeway mainlanes had been added to SH 151 at Potranco, Pinn, and Old Highway 90, and the freeway mainlanes from Old Highway 90 to Callaghan were under construction.  Proposals to finish the SH 151 freeway were now on the books.  Also, an overpass on Loop 1604 at Kitty Hawk built in the early '90s essentially extended that freeway east to FM 78.  On the western end, Loop 1604 had been upgraded to a freeway from John Peace to Bandera Rd.  The first section of the Wurzbach Parkway was open from Wetmore to O'Connor and the segment Lockhill-Selma and NW Military Hwy. was nearing completion.


2005

2005 map
Map legend

Work to finally build all the mainlanes of SH 151 had been completed by 2005.  Wurzbach Parkway was done now from Lockhill-Selma to Blanco Rd. and plans were on the books to finish the remaining segments.  Initial plans to upgrade US 281 to a freeway north of Loop 1604 to Stone Oak Parkway were announced in the early 2000s.  Plans to build it as a tollway created a storm of controversy that has delayed it indefinitely.



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