SAN ANTONIO FREEWAY HISTORY
Read my essay on San Antonio's freeway history for the Express-News' Tricentennial series
The full history of the freeway system is available on this site
Antonio Area Freeway System
State Loop 1604 (Charles W. Anderson Loop)
|This page last updated October 19, 2017
||This page covers the freeway segment of Loop 1604
across North San Antonio from FM 78 in Converse to SH 151. The remainder of the 95 mile loop is non-freeway, most of which is a
two-lane rural road.
Length: 31 miles
it was built
1960s, it would have been hard to fathom that Loop 1604 North would
become the busy
that it is today. While the southern half remains in its
configuration as a two-lane rural state highway, the northern
been expanded to a four-lane freeway. Loop
1604 forms the
Antonio's two beltways and the freeway portion serves Randolph AFB,
Oaks Mall, the Stone Oak area, Camp Bullis, the University of Texas at
San Antonio's (UTSA) main campus, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, the Shops at
Cantera and the La Cantera development, The Rim development, the
headquarters for Valero
and Tesoro Energy, the Alamo Ranch area, Sea World, the Westover
Hills area, and the suburban cities of Converse, Universal City, Live
Selma, Hollywood Park, Shavano Park, and Helotes. The
increasingly dense suburban residential areas with some moderate to
commercial development, especially near I-35, US 281,
Rd., and SH 151. The area outside 1604 from Bandera Rd. to US
is expected to add 200,000 people by 2030.
half of a
fully directional interchange at US 281. Motorists must use
access roads and a
signalized three-level interchange to access US 281 north of
1604. Work to
construct the remaining four ramps of the interchange is underway and
expected to be complete by 2020. Cloverleaf interchanges exist at I-10
I-35. At SH 151, there is a flyover connector from
southbound Loop 1604 to eastbound SH 151. Another flyover connector is
under construction from southbound Loop 1604 to US 90 eastbound.
||Loop 1604 is sometimes mistakenly referred
to as FM 1604. However, it is correctly titled Loop 1604; FM
1604 is in North Texas. (See the History
section below for more info.)
- 4 lanes along entire route
- Continuous access roads along all of route except:
- East of Pat Booker (NB) and east of Kitty
- At I-35
- At the railroad tracks between Nacogdoches and
for a list of Loop 1604 exits.
- 70 mph from Nacogdoches to SH
- 65 mph from Pat Booker to FM 78
SPECIAL FEATURES &
- TransGuide coverage from
Lockhill-Selma to SH 151
- Five at-grade turnoffs
('right-on, right-off") with no median crossover in Universal City
- Partial directional interchanges
at US 281 and SH 151
- VIA Metropolitan Transit University Park
& Ride located under I-10 interchange
- Carpool parking area on
northbound ramp to/from FM 78
- Unusual yield sign arrangement
at I-10 interchange; click here
for more information
1604 experienced ridiculously blistering traffic growth during the
1990s with average AADT counts up well over 300% along nearly the
entire route, and up nearly 800% near Bandera Rd. However,
has moderated substantially during the past decade. Generally,
volume is moderate to heavy along entire route. Traffic on
section north of Bandera Rd. increased more than tenfold between 1990
2015. Recurring congestion occurs during morning
evening peak periods between Bandera Rd. and US 281.
ANNUAL DAILY TRAFFIC
|E of FM 78
|W of FM 78
|Pat Booker Rd.
|Green Mountain Rd.
|Gold Canyon Dr.
|W of US 281N
|La Cantera Pkwy.
|N of Bandera Rd.
|S of Bandera Rd.
SH 151/Alamo Ranch Parkway: Click here for
details on this project.
to Potranco: Click here
for details on this project.
Bandera: Click here
for details on this project.
view information for all projects in this
and the Alamo
Regional Mobility Authority released plans in June 2007 for a $1.8
mega-project to upgrade and expand Loop 1604 across northern San
Military Dr. West around to I-10 East. This project would
have added tolled freeway lanes where there were no freeway
Braun Rd. and south of FM 78). Between Braun and FM 78, the
project would have
added new tolled managed lanes in the median between the
free freeway lanes, which would have remained toll-free. Additionally, it
would have built major interchanges at SH 151, I-10W, US 281N, I-35N,
I-10E, as well as modifications and improvements on those intersecting
roads. That project was shelved and a new environmental impact study on
entire corridor is currently underway.
Congress approved a national economic "stimulus" plan
that poured additional
federal money into road construction projects. The
Organization (MPO) approved allocating San Antonio's share of
stimulus funding to be used as matching funds to leverage state funding
first half of a 281/1604 interchange. This project built all
four of the ramps
connecting to 281 south of 1604, i.e. northbound 281 to both directions
1604, and both directions of 1604 to southbound 281. The use
of the federal
funds allowed the ramps to be toll-free. The Texas
(TTC) approved the funding request on March 5th, 2009. Construction began in
early 2011 and was complete in mid 2013. It was
determined that ramps
connecting to 281 north of 1604 could not be built until lingering
stemming from the lawsuits and associated environmental studies for 281
of 1604 were resolved. However, funding was set
aside for those
ramps so that construction could begin as soon as the legal and
issues were resolved and constuction began in 2017.
and ARMA officials announced funding had been secured to extend the
non-toll freeway south from SH 151 to US 90 and build an elevated
direct connector from southbound Loop 1604 to eastbound US
90. Work began on that segment in late 2016. For more information
the Culebra to Potranco segment, click here. For the Potranco to US 90 segment, click here.
were announced in early 2017 to make upgrades to the section from I-35
to FM 78. These upgrades will include constructing continuous
access roads to connect the existing stretches of discontiguous access
roads and eliminate the several "right-on, right-off" intersections on
the mainlanes, reconfiguring entrance and exit ramps, adding
auxiliary lanes between ramps, reconstructing the Pat Booker overpass,
and widening the Kitty Hawk overpass. Construction could
2018. More details here.
Loop 1604 was
by Transportation Commission Minute
Order 72928 (June 30, 1977). Named "Anderson Loop" for former Bexar
Judge Charles W.
Anderson who advocated for an outer loop during the mid 1950s. Anderson
served as Bexar County Judge from 1939 until his death in 1964.
1604 was assembled
from several Farm-to-Market and State Loop roads in the early
of the FM roads that was included was FM 1604, and segments of other
roads added to the loop were subsequently renumbered
as FM 1604. However, when the loop was nearly done and state
were ready to
change the designation from FM to a Loop, the term "Loop 1604" had already become ingrained with area residents. So in 1977,
simply changed the route
designation to Loop 1604. As a result, Loop
1604 holds the distinction as the only four-digit state
highway in Texas that is not a
Farm-to-Market road. FM 1604
has since been recycled and is in use in
Irene, Texas, east of Hillsboro. Regardless, many locals
still mistakenly refer to Loop 1604 as FM 1604.
1604 usurped all or
parts Loop 334, FM 1518, FM 1604, FM 1627, and FM 2173. FM 1518 ran
east to Elmendorf, then north to near US 87 and then on to
Schertz. FM 1627
was a short road connecting I-35 to Pat Booker, and FM 2173 connected
to Macdona. Loop 334 composed the western arc of today's 1604 routing from I-10 West south to Macdona.
The first plans for an outer loop around San Antonio emerged ca. 1956. About that time,
began on the first segment of FM 1604 from I-10 to US 281 and was
around 1958. By 1964, it had been extended to
I-10 East. Meanwhile, to the west, Loop 334 was being built from the
end of FM 1604 at I-10 West. That route reached south to the Bandera
Road area by 1958. It was renumbered to be part of FM 1604 in 1959
and reached Macdona ca. 1974. FM 2173
and 1518 were upgraded and
redesignated as FM 1604 in the mid '70s, and the missing section,
East and FM 1518, was built in the late '70s.
at I-10 and I-35 were completed ca. 1986. Around 1987, the
US 281 and I-10 was upgraded to a four-lane freeway. The
281 and I-35 was upgraded to a freeway in two phases in the late
segment from I-10 to Babcock was upgraded in the early '90s as was the
from I-35 to FM 78. The section from Babcock to Braun Rd. was
1996. The section from Braun Rd. to near Culebra was upgraded
highway in 1999, and the overpass at Culebra opened in mid
coverage was added to the section between Babcock and Tradesman in
previously-missing access roads between NW Military and Bitters were
during the summer of 2002. TransGuide coverage was extended
from I-10 to Bandera Rd. in April 2003. Work to upgrade the
section from SH
151 south to US 90 from a two-lane rural road to a four-lane divided
was completed in 2007 and work to widen the section from FM 78 to Lower
Rd. to a divided highway was complete in September 2011. Work to upgrade the section from Lower Seguin Rd. to I-10
a four-lane divided highway was completed in 2015.
first ramps in the
281/1604 interchange opened on November 8, 2012, with the remainder
few days before Christmas that same year. The remainder of
associated with the interchange project, including additional lanes on
some ramp modifications, were all complete by mid 2013.
overpass for Vance
Jackson Rd. was completed in mid 2013.
officials identified funding to construct new toll-free freeway
Bandera Rd. south to SH 151. After a funding swap to remove
funding from the project, it was removed from the overarching
for the corridor, which allowed the state to begin
study was complete. Construction was subsequently completed
before the study was finished. The new southbound freeway
to traffic on April 23, 2016, followed by the northbound lanes on May
it "Loop" 1604 or "FM" 1604?
It is Loop
1604. A Loop designation is equivalent to a State Highway, which makes
it eligible for federal
funding. The FM system is funded entirely by the
state. There is actually an FM 1604 in the town of Irene in
is Loop 1604 the only four-digit route
in Texas that's not an FM?
loop was being built, the state used the
number of one of the existing roadways that became part of the loop: FM
1604. Once the loop was mostlt completed in 1977 and the designation
was ready to be changed to "Loop", the route number 1604 had become
well-known among locals, so it was retained and the designation simply
changed from FM to Loop. It is an exception to Texas'
- Why are the new sections of Loop 1604 only four lanes? It needs to be six lanes or more.
number of lanes for a new roadway is based on current and projected
traffic volumes for the next 20 years. Twenty years is the accepted
planning horizon for a couple of reasons. First, that's the length of
time before a road will need major repairs and upgrades simply due to
age (i.e. the road's expected lifespan). Second, that length of time is
the longest that any projections can be considered even remotely
reasonable. Since nobody has a crystal ball, traffic
projections are "educated guesses" based on the
best data available for future development in an area and past growth.
Roads are then planned based on those projections. In the case of the
new segments of Loop 1604, those projections show that four lanes will
be adequate for the 20 years. TxDOT, as a steward of taxpayer dollars,
cannot spend more than they can justify, a policy I'm sure most
taxpayers support, especially with all the other needs that need
- Why didn't they build Loop 1604 between Bandera and I-35 with more than four lanes?
the point above regarding how the number of lanes to be built is
determined. Then keep in mind that Loop 1604 between I-10 and I-35 was
planned 35 years ago and that it was an upgrade from a two-lane rural
road to the four-lane freeway that's there today-- a dramatic increase
in capacity at the time. Loop 1604 between Bandera and I-10 was planned
around 1990 and also was an upgrade from a two-lane rural road. In both
cases, significant recurring traffic congestion didn't develop until
the 15 to 20 year mark, which shows the validity of the planning done.
The issue now is that an upgrade is needed but has been delayed (see
- Why haven't they added more lanes to Loop 1604 North? Don't they know how bad the traffic is?
have been in the works to expand Loop 1604 from Bandera to I-35 for
over a decade. However, such an expansion is a very expensive project--
approaching $1 billion. Over the past couple of decades, TxDOT has
faced a substantial funding shortage that has required them to plan to use tolling to pay for the new lanes. With local
opposition to tolling and the drama over a similar plan on US 281 that delayed that project for over a decade, the
plan for 1604 has had to be reworked several times. Additionally, because of the
project's location over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, an intensive
Environmental Impact Study (EIS) has been required, a study that is
made more time-consuming because of the length of the project. Recent
projects on the western corridor, which were included in earlier drafts of the study, have since been pulled-out of that overall
project, which has required the EIS to be revised, causing further
delays. As of this writing, the study is still underway and TxDOT has
the first phases of the managed lane project tentatively set to start