Below is Version 2.0 of the best history of the San Antonio area
freeway system that I can assemble. The information on this page was
compiled from a wide variety of 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 and the San Antonio district office of TxDOT for their assistance in
locating those materials.
| San Antonio Freeway System
|This page last updated October 20, 2017
This page covers the history of the expansion of
the overall system but 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.
Antonio began to plan and develop its freeway system during World War
II and was one of four cities with a Texas Highway Department Urban
Expressways division (the others being Houston, Dallas, and Ft. Worth.) Maps from the mid 1940s show "Interstate
Highways and Expressways for post-war construction." In plans and
news reports, the routes were interchangeably referred to as
expressways; urban expressways; freeways; or interregional, intrastate, or interstate highways. In
the subsequent decades,
numerous freeway plans were proposed. 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 or were benchmark years in the development of the system.
the maps below, I've tried to show a segment as complete only when the
full freeway was open to traffic. In many cases, a lesser roadway was
built first such as a divided highway or access roads, followed
some time later by the full freeway. For the '50s and '60s, it was
difficult to differentiate these levels of completion, so some segments
may show as complete even before having been a full freeway.
some cases, I found conflicting or incomplete information, so I had to
extrapolate or infer the status of particular segments at certain times
based on earlier and/or subsequent reports. This may result
in some minor inconsistencies.
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 state highway designation that preceded the
US route number as well as the main pre-freeway routing of those roads.
Most of the routes were adjusted several times as the freeways
continued to usurp them.
Fredericksburg Rd., N. Flores St.
Austin Hwy., Randolph Blvd.
|| S. Alamo
St., Nogalitos St., New Laredo Hwy.
|| S. Presa
Commerce St., Old Hwy 90 W, Kriewald Rd.
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.
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 "pre-freeway" roadways until the time they're upgraded. Where
known, freeways that were preceded by farm-to-market roads or
newly-built divided highways or access roads are also shown as
"pre-freeway" as those roads were built.
City street maps
from the mid 1940s show the earliest proposal for an "Urban Expressway"
network. That proposal included today's "Downtown Y" sections
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
present-day I-35 down to New Laredo 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
follow the rail line from downtown to NW Bexar County. I-10
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 near
Walters St. Today's Loop 410 between NW Military Hwy. and
Harry Wurzbach was actually part of the Harry Wurzbach Military
Highway, which was a single road connecting Fort Sam Houston to Camp
Bullis. This is why those intersections are angled the way they are to
city's first freeway, a 0.7 mile section of I-10 West from
Fredericksburg at Woodlawn to Culebra, opened quietly in mid-July
November 28, 1949, a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Colorado
overpass celebrated the official opening of the longer segment from
Woodlawn to today's Frio St. interchange (Comal St. at the time.) A
year later, the freeway was extended from
Martin where it merged into Pecos St. going southbound and from San
northbound. The first section of I-35 South, stretching from Guadalupe
to Nogalitos, opened in
proposal for the northern end of I-10 West had now been
modified to jog further
to the west, meeting Fredericksburg Rd. near Huebner. The
I-35 South proposal had been modified to use today's alignment as far
south as SW Military, then to proceed west on Military 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 near today's intersection of Callaghan and
The first section of I-35 North, from Martin to Broadway, had been built and was now open.
sections of outlying freeways were now under construction. The
first section of Loop 410 (then known as Loop 13) running from US 90 to
Bandera was under construction. The alignment for I-35 South between
Military and the future Loop 410 had been adjusted yet again, this time
to its final alignment, and was now under construction. I-35 North from
Fratt to Toepperwein Rd. was also under construction.
routing for I-10 East inside Loop 410 had been scrapped, but no
alternative had yet been made public. Routing for the SE segment of
Loop 410 as well as I-37 was in limbo awaiting a decision on a possible
runway expansion at Brooks AFB. The alignment for I-10 West had moved
again, this time running parallel to Fredericksburg Rd. Most of the
alignment for Loop 410 had been finalized and plans for US 90 West were
now underway as well.
Freeway planning seems to have reached a fevered pitch by 1957. The
latest proposal for I-10 West was for the alignment
that would eventually be built. A new proposal for I-10 East would have
routed it along Rigsby Ave. to WW White Rd., then northeast from there
to today's route. The first proposals for the eventual I-37, US 281
North, and US 90 West were now on the table and the routing for the
southeastern arc of Loop 410 had been settled.
other freeways were proposed that eventually would be scrapped
including a US 281 South freeway along Roosevelt Ave., the Bandera
Freeway along Culebra Ave. and Bandera Rd., and the first proposal for
an "inner bypass" west of downtown along Zarzamora to connect I-10 West
to I-35 South bypassing downtown.
South was now under construction from Nogalitos south to Division.
The elevated "Central Expressway" connecting I-35 North and South
and which would carry motorists "in the air through downtown" according
to news reports at the time, was also under construction.
first section of Loop 410 (then still Loop 13), from Culebra to Bandera, opened in 1956 as had I-35 South from SW Military to New Laredo Hwy. Loop 410 from Bandera to Blanco and Culebra to US 90 were under construction.
northwestern arc of Loop 410 from US 90 all the way to Blanco was
now complete. I-35 between Nogalitos and SW Military was under
construction as was the section of I-35 from Broadway to the Walters
St. area and north of Toepperwein.
I-35 had been completed south of New Laredo Hwy. and north of Fratt to Toepperwein. I-10 West was now under
construction from Loop 410 to De Zavala as was the SW segment of Loop 410 between US 90 and I-35 South.
Earlier proposals for US 281 North and I-37 disappeared during this time, likely bceause they needed further review.
The final routing for I-10 East had finally been selected.
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 yet meet Interstate
standards. All of I-35 north of Fratt was now open, and all of
I-35 South was now complete. I-10 West was
now complete from Woodlawn north to De Zavala.
Construction was underway to close the gap on I-35 North around the eastern side of Ft. Sam Houston. The section of I-10
East from Houston St. eastward was also under construction as was Loop 410 on the Southside between I-35 and Roosevelt. Finally,
the first sections of the two-lane FM 1604 were now complete between
I-10 West and US 281.
federal Interstate Highway funding now pouring-in and approval from
city voters on a freeway bond proposal, freeway construction was
continuing briskly. In 1962, I-35 had become the
first metropolitan Interstate in Texas to be fully completed. I-10 West
was now under construction from De Zavala to Leon
Springs. I-10 East was complete east of Houston St. Loop
410 on the Southside was open from I-35 east to Roosevelt, and
most of the eastern arc from I-35 North to New Sulphur Springs Rd.
was complete as
well. The first section of US 90
from I-35 to Cupples Rd., was just starting construction. Additional
sections of the
two-lane FM 1604 were now complete across the Northside from Bandera
Rd. to I-10 East.
routes were now on the
drawing boards including Spur 371 (the "Kelly Access Freeway", now
General Hudnell Dr.) and a new routing for the never-built Bandera
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, through
the King William, Southtown, and Lavaca neighborhoods to I-37, then
east and northeast to end at
Commerce between Hackberry and New Braunfels Ave.
The routing of the North
Expressway (US 281 North), which would soon become quite controversial, was now firmed-up. Two small
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
spur in conjunction with elaborate distribution ramps for the other
freeways surrounding downtown.
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
Bandera Freeway proposal was unchanged, but the two connector proposals
for the North Expressway appear to have been scrapped by this time.
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 SE Military to US 181 was under construction as well as the section from Florida St. and I-35 with part of the the latter being temporarily paved and used for parking
for the fair.
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 immediately.
the original Bandera Freeway route had been scrapped due to city
officials' 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 Loop 1604
instead. In addition, a second route for 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.
fierce controversy over US 281 North was finally over and the freeway
opened in 1978. A short section of 281 from San Pedro to Bitters was
under construction. 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.
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 from I-10 West to US 281 North and in the area around I-35 North, and was
planned between US 281 and I-35.
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.)
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"--
subsequently named Wurzbach Parkway-- to relieve traffic on Loops 410
and 1604 had been announced.
the dawn of the new millennium, 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 mid '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
from Lockhill-Selma to NW Military Hwy. was nearing completion.
to completed 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 delayed it for over a decade.
to finally build the missing middle segments of Wurzbach Parkway was
now underway and plans were announced to extend the Loop 1604 freeway
south from Bandera to US 90.
Construction on the first phase to expand Loop 1604 West, from Bandera to SH 151, was now underway.