| San Antonio Area Roads History
|This page last updated December 5, 2021
is 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,
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.
page covers the history of the expansion of
the overall system but not capacity or reconstruction expansions on individual freeways-- details of those are available on
the individual freeway pages elsewhere on this site.
of US and state highways in downtown San Antonio and the
growth of automobile traffic in the 1930s caused severe congestion in
the central city. To
address this growing problem,
began planning a series of "interregional highways" in the late '30s to
traffic around downtown. However, the outbreak of World War II delayed
this initiative. After
the war ended, the effort resumed with a
civic and business leaders in late 1946 where "the development of an
interregional highway system in the San Antonio area" to help relieve
increasing congestion on downtown streets was discussed.
The manifestation of that was a 20-year master plan to ensure that San
Antonio was at or near the front of the line to receive post-war state
and federal funding to build an expressway system. City maps from as
as the mid-1940s show a three-legged "Interstate
Highways and Expressways for post-war construction" that is today's
"Downtown Y" of Interstates 10 and 35. In plans and
news reports, the routes were interchangeably referred to as
expressways, urban expressways, freeways, or interregional, intrastate,
or interstate highways.
first master plan and resulting civic and political support helped San
Antonio and Bexar County obtain voter approval for numerous bonds over
the years to purchase right-of-way for the future expressways. It was
this local cost-sharing that allowed San Antonio to
and federal funds that propelled the construction of local
expressways and landed San
Antonio one of the Texas Highway Department's four
Expressways divisions (the others being Houston, Dallas, and Ft.
Worth.) The expansion of the system got a massive boost in 1956, first
with the state approval of a local expressway plan, and then with
the launch of the Interstate Highway System, which designated San
Antonio as the crossroads for two major Interstate routes. All of
this meant that, just a decade later, Bexar County had nearly 180
miles of Interstates
and expressways, a "metropolitan highway complex that...ranks
second only to Los Angeles" according to a San Antonio Express
and News report from 1966.
Proposed locations of Interstate
Highways in San Antonio from the 1955 "Yellow Book"
that was the blueprint
for the Interstate Highway System
(Other historical plans are here)
Interstates, several other freeways were proposed over the years. Some
were shelved due to cost or feasibility issues, and a couple died due
to public opposition, but most
were eventually built in one form or another, leading to the
comprehensive system that is in place
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 and/or were benchmark years in the development of
the system. Between those dates, short-lived variations to specific
plans may have been proposed but were not substantially different
enough to warrant inclusion here.
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 designations 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 routing of those routes in 1945
just before the start of the first freeway project.
Most of the routes were adjusted several times as the freeway system
evolved and usurped 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
the construction of San Antonio's freeway system, several existing
sections of US and State highways in the outlying areas were
freeways. The maps on this page show those sections in dark
gray as "existing non-freeway" roadways until the time they're
freeway routes were initially built as access roads.
For the early segments of I-35 South and Loop 410 that were built first
as access roads but followed within a few years by full freeways, the
initial access road construction and completion is shown on the maps
below as completed freeway because of the short time between those
SH 151, since there was a much longer time between the opening of
the access roads and the full freeway sections, the maps
will show the access road completions as non-freeway
eventual freeway upgrades shown as they opened in subsequent years. For
Loop 1604, which was preceded by FM roads, those roads will also be
shown as non-freeway when they were built and
the various segments shown as completed freeway as they were upgraded
in the following years. Finally, a few segments of I-35 on the far
south and north sides of the county were initially opened as
"semi-freeways", which consisted of full divided highways with access
roads, but no overpasses at intersections; the maps below will
show these as completed freeway since they more-or-less functioned as
such. They were upgraded to full freeways in
from the mid-1940s show the earliest proposal for an "Urban Expressway"
network consisting of today's "Downtown Y" sections
I-10 and I-35. Soon, extensions to that core system were
proposed. I-35 North was proposed along what would be its
path. I-35 South was proposed to follow Nogalitos St. from its
present-day I-35 south 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 (this would have simply been an upgrade to
the existing US 81 route at that time.) I-10 West was proposed to
roughly parallel the rail line from downtown to NW Bexar County. I-10
was proposed to approach the city along the existing US 90 to the
location of today's Loop 410, then follow today's Gembler Rd. and
Parkway and join I-35.
section of Loop 410 between NW Military Hwy. and
Harry Wurzbach Rd. was actually part of the longer Harry
Highway, which was a single road connecting Fort
Sam Houston to Camp
of the city's first expressway, US 87 (also today's I-10)
from Fredericksburg Rd. at Woodlawn Ave. to Frio St. (Comal
St. at that time),
started in 1946 with the first section, the 7/10th of a mile stretch
from Fredericksburg Rd. to Culebra Ave., opening quietly and
without fanfare on July 8,
November 28, 1949, a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Colorado
overpass celebrated the official opening of the entire expressway from
Woodlawn Ave. to Frio St. From
there, traffic used the existing Laredo St./Cameron St. boulevard along
Pedro Creek to reach downtown. About a
year later, the expressway was extended along that boulevard from
Martin St. where it merged into Pecos St. going southbound and from San
northbound. The first section of today's I-35 South, stretching from
Guadalupe St. at Pecos St./San Saba St. south
to Nogalitos St., then opened in
1952, leaving a short gap between the two expressway sections along the
west side of downtown.
proposal for the far northern end of I-10 West had now been
modified to jog further
to the west, meeting Fredericksburg Rd. near Huebner Rd. The
I-35 South proposal had been modified to use today's alignment as far
south as SW Military Dr., then to proceed west on Military to New
then south from there.
city's 1951 master plan, the so-called "Lilly Report" (named after the
city's chief engineer at the time), had three proposals for completing
Loop 13. On the North Side, the proposed route west of NW
Military Hwy. would have routed it to the intersection of Callaghan Rd.
Fredericksburg Rd. (Callaghan did not continue east of Fredericksburg
at that time.) It then would have followed Callaghan Rd. southwest and
south to US 90. On the South Side, the existing Loop 13 along Military
Dr. had become too developed to continue to be a high-speed
corridor, so the plan was to build a new loop route a couple
miles south along Chavaneaux Rd. from Goliad Rd. west to US 81, then
northwest to and along Dwyer Rd. to US 90 west of Lackland AFB; this
route would eventually become the southern section of Loop 410.
Finally, on the Northeast Side, the existing Loop 13 on WW White Rd.
was proposed to continue northward along what's now Loop 410 and I-35
to Randolph Blvd. Those sections of Loop 13 were not necessarily intended to be expressways initially.
I cannot find an official route map for it, I have discovered a couple
of Highway Department aerial views from this time with a hand-drawn proposed expressway
route through Southtown and the East Side as well as some
artist's renderings for a proposed US 90 expressway
cutting through the middle of the King William
District and a proposed interchange at I-35 near Guadalupe St.
These all appear to outline an early proposed route for a US 90
Coming from the east, the route would have used today's
Salado Creek. From there, the route would have followed the Aransas
Ave. corridor to near New Braunfels Ave. where it would have turned
west and followed the Indiana St. corridor. After crossing today's
I-37, it would have turned northwest and crossed Presa St. and St.
St. at Sadie St. Continuing northwest, it would have crossed Alamo
St., the King William District, and the San Antonio River between
Sheridan St. and Beauregard St. It then would have continued along
Arsenal St. and
El Paso St. to the aforementioned interchange with I-35. West of
there, I haven't found any definitive route plans, but it seems like it
probably would have used the Guadalupe St. and Castroville Rd. corridors to Acme
Rd. and then the current route of US 90 west of there.
first section of I-35 North, from Martin St. to Broadway, had been
and was now open. The section of I‑35 from Toepperwein Rd. to the
line-- including an interchange at Pat Booker Rd.-- was also complete
and the section between Fratt and Toepperwein Rd. was
just starting construction.
sections of outlying freeways were now under construction. The
first section of access roads Loop 410 running from US 90 to
Bandera Rd. was under construction. The alignment for I-35 South
Military Dr. and the future Loop 410 had been adjusted yet again, this
to its final alignment, and the access roads were now under
routing for most of I-10 East and US 90 West inside Loop 410 in local
plans at this
time, so it seems the earlier proposal had been scrapped. Despite it
not being in local plans, a routing for I-10 East in the 1955 "Yellow
Book" of proposed Interstate routings in metropolitan areas showed it
essentially following the Commerce St. corridor to near downtown, then
perhaps the Montana/Nueva St. corridor to I-35. It's possible this was
a generic "placeholder" routing while an exact routing was studied.
Meanwhile, plans for US 90 West of Military Dr. were underway.
alignment for I-10 West had moved again, this time running parallel to
Fredericksburg Rd. This was shown in both the local plans and the
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, but most of the
alignment for the rest of Loop 410 had been finalized.
public support and federal funding now
covering 90% of
construction costs, expressway planning reached a fevered
this time, San Antonio was generally ahead of other cities, with the
Express-News reporting that San Antonio was "outdoing all other Texas
cities who, despite their boasting, have been unable to get an
Expressway [sic] into their major business and shopping areas", and officials
were hoping to continue the momentum with the release of an ambitious
freeway plan in 1956.
latest proposal for I-10 West was for the alignment
that would eventually be built. A new proposal for I-10 East appears to
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 known 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
Expressway along Culebra Ave. and Bandera Rd., and the first proposal
an "inner bypass" west of downtown along Zarzamora St. to connect I-10
to I-35 South bypassing downtown. This was planned to relieve
congestion that had already manifested on the original sections of I-10.
access roads for I-35
South from SW Military Dr. to New Laredo Hwy were
now under construction from Nogalitos south to
Division Ave. The elevated "Central Expressway", connecting I-35 North
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, from Culebra Rd. to Bandera
in 1956 as a two-lane (i.e. one lane in each direction) freeway. Loop 410
access roads from Bandera Rd. to Blanco Rd. and Culebra Rd. to US 90
first proposals for an "Outer Loop" (now Loop 1604) were also made at
this time. The western arc, from I-10 to US 90, was originally
designated Loop 334 before being merged with FM
I only show the overall Loop 1604 proposal during this year. It
remained in the local highway plans from this point forward, but it was
initially built as Farm-to-Market roads. For clarity, from
on, I'll only designate "proposed freeway" sections for Loop
when plans were released to upgrade those sections to a freeway.
"Central Expressway" section of I-35 downtown connecting the three
previously completed expressways north and south of downtown was now
complete and open to traffic.
access roads for the northwestern arc of Loop 410 from US 90 all the
way to Blanco Rd. were
now complete. I-35 South had been
completed south of New Laredo Hwy. and from Nogalitos St. to Division
was under construction between
Division Ave. and SW Military Dr.
North from Broadway to Rittiman Rd. was
now under construction.
West was now under
construction from Loop 410 north to Fredericksburg Rd. and from
Woodlawn Ave. to Fresno St.
The SW segment of Loop 410 between US 90 and I-35 South was
earlier proposal for I-37 disappeared during this time as it was under
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. The earlier sections of Loop 410 between US 90 and NW
Military Dr. that were built as access roads had now been upgraded to
freeway. However, only the western arc 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 was not yet part of the
national Interstate Highway plan. Loop 410
on the South Side between I-35 and Roosevelt Ave. was under construction.
I-35 South was now complete; the previous sections of I-35 South that
had been built as access roads had now been upgraded to a full
Broadway to Rittiman Rd. and north of Fratt were open while
the remaining section between Rittiman Rd. and Fratt was nearing
now complete from Loop 410 north to Fredericksburg Rd. and
from Woodlawn Ave. to
Fresno St. and under construction from Fresno St. to Loop 410. The
section of I-10
East from WW White Rd. eastward was also under construction.
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 of another expressway bond proposal, construction
continuing briskly. In 1962, I-35 had become the
first metropolitan Interstate in Texas to be fully completed. I-10 West
was now complete inside Loop 410 and under construction from
Fredericksburg Rd. to Leon
Springs. I-10 East was complete east of WW White Rd. and was under
construction from there to E Houston St.
of I-35 through Bexar County was now complete, making it the first
county in Texas to complete its construction of I-35.
410 on the South Side was open from I-35 east to S Presa St., most of
eastern arc from I-35 North to S WW White
Rd. was complete, and the sections between San Pedro Ave. and I-35
been upgraded to a full freeway by this time.
first sections of US 90
from I-35 to Cupples Rd. and Loop 410 to Pinn Rd., were just starting
sections of the
two-lane FM 1604 were now complete across the North Side from Bandera
Rd. to I-10 East.
now on the
drawing boards including Spur 371 (the "Kelly Access Freeway", now
General Hudnell Dr.) and a revised routing for the previously-proposed
Bandera Expressway that took it through the near West Side and south of
generally along today's Cesar Chavez Blvd. The proposed I-10 bypass was
also back on the drawing boards, slicing a path in the
Zarzamora corridor to connect I-10 and
routing of the North
Expressway (US 281 North), which would soon become quite controversial,
was now being fleshed-out. Two small
connectors were also planned for the
North Expressway: San Pedro Ave. connecting Loop 410 to US 281, and the
St. Mary's Connector, running
parallel to St. Mary's St., connecting 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.
first section of US
90 West from I-35 to Cupples Rd. was open and SP 371 (General Hudnell
Dr.) was also complete.
was under construction from Florida St. to US 181. FM 1604 had been
extended south from Bandera Rd. to Culebra Rd.
West from Leon Springs to Boerne and beyond was complete.
Bandera Expressway proposal was unchanged. The battle over the path for
281 near Hildebrand Ave. was raging at this time. The San Pedro Ave.
for US 281 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 were open. US 90 West
was complete to Loop 410, and I-37 between Florida St. and SE Military
Dr. was done. The section of I-37 between SE
Military Dr. to US 181 was under construction as well as the section
St. to I-35 with part of the section next to the HemisFair area being
temporarily paved and used as a parking lot
for the fair.
over the proposed US 281 North continued on into the new decade and a
fight over another freeway-- the Bandera Expressway-- was gearing-up.
undisputed northern and southern parts of US 281 had begun in 1969, but
was suspended in 1971 when the Conservation Society won a decision to
revoke federal funding. In 1973, Congress allowed the state
city to complete the
freeway without federal funding and work resumed
the original Bandera Expressway route had been scrapped due to city
officials' concerns about its path through the "Model Cities" urban
area on the near West Side. A new proposal for the freeway, now
officially being called the "Northwest Transportation Facility", routed
it along Culebra Ave. from I-10 to Loop 1604. In addition, a new route
the I-10 bypass was
proposed for the near West Side that took it closer to downtown with
less impact on the Model Cities area.
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. FM 1604 had been extended south from
Culebra all the way to SH 16 South.
over US 281 North was finally over and the freeway
opened in 1978 and the last section of the original plan, from San
Pedro Ave. to Bitters Rd., was
under construction. However, the Bandera Expressway proposal
had been scrapped by this time due to protests over the number of
displacements it would cause. The I-10 bypass was also cancelled;
instead, plans were now underway to double-deck I-10.
last sections of FM 1604
south of the city were now under construction and the road would soon
be renamed Loop 1604. Planning to upgrade the increasingly busy and
dangerous northern arc to a freeway was underway.
the mid '80s, suburban growth was begining to reach 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 complete as was the new Loop
1604/I-35 North interchange, and work was progressing to upgrade 1604
between US 281 and I-35. Plans to upgrade US 281 from
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 North Side 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.
upgrade US 281 North between Bitters Rd. 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 Rd., Pinn Rd., and Old Highway 90, and
freeway mainlanes from Old Highway 90 to Callaghan Rd. were under
construction. Proposals to finish the SH 151 freeway were now
on the books.
overpass on Loop 1604 at Kitty Hawk
Rd. 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 Blvd. to Bandera Rd.
first section of
the Wurzbach Parkway was open from Wetmore Rd. to O'Connor Rd. and the
from Lockhill-Selma Rd. to NW Military Hwy. was nearing completion.
The first plans to upgrade US 281 from Loop 1604 to Stone Oak Pkwy. were announced.
to complete the mainlanes of SH 151 had been completed by
2005. Wurzbach Parkway was done now from Lockhill-Selma Rd. to
Blanco Rd. and plans were on the books to finish the remaining
plans to expand US 281 from Loop 1604 to Stone Oak Pkwy. had been put
on hold due to funding issues, and proposals to build it as a tollway
created a storm of
controversy that would delay 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. Plans to expand US 281 north of Loop
1604 now extended all the way to the county line, but those plans were
embroiled in ongoing controversy as the expansion would include
on the first phase to expand Loop 1604 West, from Bandera Rd. to SH
was now underway. New funding that would allow the expansion of US 281 to proceed without tolls was approved.
The expansion of
Loop 1604 on the West Side from Bandera Rd. all the way to US 90 was
complete, and work had finally started on the long-anticipated
expansion of US 281 North.
pages of interest on this site