San Antonio Freeway System
This page last updated
December 06, 2010
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
For other historical
maps and photos, see the photo gallery
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
Fredericksburg Rd., N. Flores St.
Austin Hwy., Randolph Blvd.
S. Alamo St., Nogalitos
St., New Laredo Hwy.
Commerce St., Old Hwy 90 W
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.
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.
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.
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.
Big parts of today's freeway
system were planned or under construction by 1957. I-35 had been completed from
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.