Home | About me | Contact | What's new | Privacy | Search
 

San Antonio
Freeway system
Other roads
  Alamo Ranch Pkwy
  Alt intersections
  Bandera Rd proposals
  Bandera Rd superstreet
  Cibolo Parkway
  The Circuit
  Hry Wz/Aus Hwy SPUI
  I-10 Boerne Projects
  I-35/Aus-SA Corridor
  I-35 Comal Projects
  LP 1604 South Projects
  SH 130
  SH 211
  Superstreets
  Loop addressing
  US 281 Comal Exp
  Which Military?
  Which Wurzbach?
History
FAQs

Search this site
 
This site is not affiliated with any official agency.


ADVERTISEMENT

Bandera Road - SH 16 Other San Antonio Area Roads
Bandera Road proposals

This page last updated November 26, 2019

ADVERTISEMENT

The proposals on this page are conceptual
The options discussed below are in the very early stages of development and there are no plans at this time to implement anything shown here. Because of widespread interest, this page is provided to explain these proposals and the current planning status. Everything on this page is subject to change.

Bandera Road (SH 16) between Loops 410 and 1604 in Leon Valley and Northwest San Antonio is the eighth most congested road in the region and 62nd most congested in the state. About 70,000 vehicles a day use the southern third of the route, about 55,000 the center third, and about 35,000 use the northern third. To put that into perspective, the section of Loop 410 on the South Side between I-35 and I-37 carries about 50,000 vehicles per day , and the stretch of Loop 1604 between SH 151 and US 90 carries less than 40,000 vehicles per day. So improvements to Bandera Road are urgently needed and have been for decades, but the road has languished with only a few minor improvements since the mid '80s.

The problem has not been that officials haven't recognized this need; there have been at least seven studies and proposals to upgrade Bandera Rd. over the past three decades. The snag has been finding improvements that are amenable to the City of Leon Valley. A flyover proposal by TxDOT back around 1990 was shot down by Leon Valley leaders, and an alternative plan that proposed building an elevated highway along Leon Creek and bypassing Leon Valley altogether also was nixed for various reasons. This schism has resulted in the repeated stalling of efforts to make major improvements to Bandera Rd.

Then, in 2009, the Alamo Area Regional Mobility Authority (ARMA) included Bandera Rd. in their regional toll system plan. The conceptual proposal was an elevated tollway along the length of Bandera between the loops. However, subsequent feasibility studies-- and simmering opposition from several constituencies-- scuttled that plan. TxDOT subsequently took over studying other options to relieve congestion in the corridor.

In 2018, the City of San Antonio joined the effort and launched a "community planning process" to develop a plan for transportation, land use, urban design, and economic development along Bandera Road. The first public meeting was held April 29th, 2019. The second round of meetings is scheduled for mid-December 2019.


Elevated throughway ("flyover") proposal

That brings us to today. While this section is named the "flyover proposal", TxDOT has actually been studying a number of options to relieve congestion on Bandera Rd.; the flyover option has simply become the most well-known and controversial of them.

Traffic study
In order to determine the best options for improvements, TxDOT studied traffic patterns along the corridor and identified three major traffic movements that need to be addressed:
  • Through traffic: Current studies indicate that about 9-15% of traffic on Bandera travels from Loop 410 to Loop 1604. However, with continuing growth along Bandera outside Loop 1604, it is expected that percentage will increase.

  • Local traffic: This is traffic with origins and/or destinations in the Bandera Road corridor (i.e. local residents and/or patrons of local businesses.)

  • "Zig-zag" traffic: This consists of traffic using a portion of Bandera for cross connectivity between a thoroughfare on one side of Bandera to another thoroughfare on the other side of Bandera. Analysis of traffic data revealed that there are three of these major movements:
    • Eckhert - Mainland/Guilbeau
    • Loop 410 - Grissom
    • Loop 1604 - Prue


Major "zig-zag" traffic patterns on Bandera Rd.


These "zig-zag" movements create two unique problems:
  • They inject a large amount of traffic into the through route for a short distance. 
  • They generate massive left turn movements at multiple intersections. Left turns are the most inefficient traffic movement and require substantially more signal time, which then reduce the amount of signal time available for opposing through traffic.
Options evaluated
With those traffic patterns in mind, several options have been evaluated to date. These have included the following:
  • Conventional widening: This plan would add one lane in each direction to the existing lanes (i.e. eight lanes from the Loop 410 ramps to Guilbeau and six lanes from there to Loop 1604), make intersection improvements, and improve access management (i.e. limiting driveways.)

  • Superstreet: This would convert all intersections in the corridor to a superstreet configuration. Additional through lanes could also be included in this plan.

  • Thoroughfare network improvements: The City of San Antonio and TxDOT identified a possible future Guilbeau-Eckhert connector route that would remove much of the "zig-zag"  traffic from the section of Bandera between those intersections. The City has agreed to study this further and has even listed it a possible future addition to its major thoroughfare plan. A connector from Eckhert to Tezel by way of Silent Sunrise has been in the thoroughfare plan for many years.

  • Reversible connector: This concept would build an elevated, reversible roadway to provide a direct express lane for the "zig-zag" traffic movement for traffic going between Eckhert and Mainland/Guilbeau.

  • Traditional freeway: This would build a standard freeway corridor with mainlanes, overpasses, ramps, and access roads. This proposal, however, would require substantial additional right-of-way, which makes it extremely expensive and disruptive; as a result, this plan is almost certainly DOA.

  • Elevated throughway: This proposal, commonly-referred to as the "flyover" plan, would consist of shifting the existing lanes slightly further outward and building an elevated roadway on piers located in the center median. This elevated roadway, running from Loop 410 to Loop 1604, would overhang the surface lanes and consist of a single lane and a shoulder in each direction to carry through traffic, similar to the flyovers connecting Bandera and Loop 410. Due to right-of-way constraints that limit possible "touch-down" locations for entrance and exit ramps, access points along the elevated section would be very limited. The elevated lanes would tie-into the existing flyovers connecting to Loop 410. There are currently no plans for this road to be tolled.
While the initial studies and modeling showed that, of the options listed above, the elevated throughway provided the most benefit at reasonable cost, it was determined that none of the above proposals individually provided more than limited, short-term congestion relief. In addition to existing traffic volumes, there is an unknown‑‑ but almost certainly quite large‑‑ amount of "latent demand", that is, drivers who are using alternate routes to avoid the congestion on Bandera. Improvements to Bandera would result in the return of many of those commuters, overwhelming the improvements. Therefore, a combination of some of the above‑‑ or possibly something else not studied to date‑‑ is likely going to be needed. 

As with previous flyover proposals, the current flyover option has generated controversy in Leon Valley. Chief among the concerns of many leaders and citizens there is that a flyover would speed traffic through the suburb. This, it is asserted, would mean drivers would speed past the businesses along Bandera, thus negatively affecting them. These businesses, of course, comprise an outsized portion of that city's tax base, so their concern is understandable. (Of course, congestion also negatively impacts those businesses, perhaps even more than a flyover would.) Additionally, there is great concern about the aesthetics of an elevated road. These concerns specifically are that it would
be unsightly and create a visual barrier that would divide the city and negatively impact property values. There is also angst about the noise that an elevated road would generate.

Because of these concerns, the City of Leon Valley asked TxDOT to suspend its planning while it sought and evaluated other options.


Boulevard proposal

In a search for other possible solutions, Leon Valley enlisted the assistance of UTSA's Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research and the Institute for Economic Development. After researching other concepts, they developed a proposal for what is known as a "multi-way boulevard." As envisioned, this would be a 10 lane at-grade thoroughfare with signalized intersections in the same locations as today. The 10 lanes would include three main through lanes in each direction with two parallel frontage lanes on each side. The frontage lanes would be built in the area used today for the drainage culverts on the side of the road and
would be physically separated from the through lanes by landscaped traffic islands. Just like the frontage roads along a freeway, the frontage lanes in this concept would provide access to adjacent properties and would be the location for sidewalks, bus stops, and bike lanes. Depending on how it is designed, traffic would move between the through lanes and frontage lanes either at the intersections or, more likely, via slip ramps between intersections.

Boulevard cross section
Cross-section of proposed boulevard concept


There are several examples of multi-way boulevards in the US including Queens Blvd. and Ocean Pkwy. in New York City, Octavia Blvd. in San Francisco, and Bothell Way in Bothell, Washington. There is even a smaller-scale example here in San Antonio: Verano Pkwy. on the Texas A&M-San Antonio campus on the South Side. All of these examples include on-street parking, however, which the Bandera proposal almost certainly would not.

The expected benefits of the boulevard concept are as follows:
  • By isolating slower local traffic to the frontage lanes, traffic in the through lanes can move faster and more safely.
  • With 10 lanes, the corridor would have about 66% more lane capacity than today.
  • The boulevard would be landscaped with trees and other foliage, making the corridor more pleasant and inviting especially for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Because there are no elevated structures, a boulevard would be much less obtrusive than an elevated highway, thus minimizing visual and sound impacts.
While the flyover proposal would require little if any additional right-of-way, the boulevard proposal would almost certainly require some additional right-of-way, although the exact amount has not yet been determined.

In addition to traffic, access, and aesthetic considerations, UTSA's Institute of Economic Development was asked to study the effect an elevated road might have on property values. Unfortunately, there's a dearth of direct data on the subject. However, data was available on the impact when elevated freeways were torn-down. This data showed that doing so resulted in a substantial increase in adjacent property values. Based on that, UTSA's researchers extrapolated that building an elevated expressway through Leon Valley would result in an equally inverse decrease in property values.

(COMMENTARY: That seems to be an overly simplistic inference as there are many other variables and factors that would likely have played into those increases. To be fair, it would require much more extensive study to identify and control for those factors. But it is also well-known that improved access typically leads to an increase in property values. Furthermore, my own cursory analysis of several random properties in the shadow of the current flyover in the vicinity of Bandera and Wurzbach show that almost all of them have increased in value over the past five years at roughly the same rate as other properties further down Bandera in Leon Valley. Again, to be fair, I was not able to compare the property values immediately before and after the flyovers were built nor to do an extensive analysis. In closing, normally, I would present the study's findings without editorial, but I felt these points needed to made. Your mileage may vary.)

There is also evidence that increasing the walkability of an area increases adjacent property values.

It is important to note that, to date, the boulevard concept is just that-- a concept. It has not been fully engineered and vetted to ascertain traffic capacity, safety issues, cost, and other more technical considerations.
Until that is done, there's no way to fairly compare this proposal to any of TxDOT's proposals. UTSA's researchers have admitted that the boulevard proposal, while adding capacity, is not likely to solve congestion issues. Instead, it makes improvements while further considering additional transportation modes, adjacent land uses, and economic impacts. In conjunction with the boulevard plan, UTSA's team also emphasizes the need for expansion of other nearby roadways as well as the overall road network itself.

As an interesting footnote, this is not the first time a boulevard plan has been proposed as an alternative for this general corridor. A proposal for a Bandera/Culebra expressway in the 1970s was met by a counter-proposal from San Antonio Mayor John Gatti for an "avenida", a concept described as a wide boulevard with bus lanes.




Animation illustrating both the "flyover" and boulevard proposals.
This is at Bandera and Huebner looking north.
(Courtesy of UTSA and the City of Leon Valley)


What's next

In 2018, the City of San Antonio joined the effort and, in conjunction with TxDOT and the City of Leon Valley, began a "community planning process" to develop a plan for transportation, land use, urban design, and economic development for the Bandera Road corridor. This will essentially reboot TxDOT's ongoing study. The first public meeting in this process was held April 29th, 2019. The second round of meetings is scheduled for mid-December 2019. This planning effort is expected to run through 2022. More details are available at the following sites:


Renderings

Below are selected renderings 
created by UTSA of both the flyover and boulevard proposals. These renderings are only for illustrative purposes and don't represent any actual plans. A sincere thank you goes to the UTSA Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research and the City of Leon Valley for making these available.




Bandera and Seneca: Flyover




Bandera and Seneca: Boulevard




Bandera and Seneca: Flyover




Bandera and Seneca: Boulevard




Bandera and Huebner: Flyover




Bandera and Huebner: Boulevard




Bandera and Huebner: Flyover




Bandera and Huebner: Boulevard




Bandera and Eckhert: Flyover




Bandera and Huebner: Boulevard



FAQ

Below are some frequently-asked questions and comments about this corridor.

Why can't they just synchronize the traffic signals on Bandera? This would fix the problem.
Actually, the signals on Bandera are already part of a coordinated system and are optimized. Many people think that just synchronizing (coordinating) signals is a magic solution to all congestion. While in many situations it can and does provide substantial benefits, the fact is that coordinated signals can only provide improvements up to the point where traffic volumes on a road reach the saturation point, and then the laws of physics (space and time) take over. Bandera well exceeds the saturation level at many times of the day.

The way that signal coordination works is by breaking traffic into groups ("platoons") and moving them through the corridor at a set speed so that they hit each signal green along the way. The gaps between platoons are then used to allow green time for cross-traffic and left turns. When traffic volumes on a roadway reach saturation, the number of vehicles is greater than a reasonable amount of green time at each intersection can clear on each cycle. Then more vehicles stack up behind those as the gaps between platoons fill-up with vehicles turning onto Bandera from cross streets and driveways. On many urban arterials, the volume of traffic turning onto and off of a specific roadway
at each intersection often is fairly balanced, so the platoon gaps stay somewhat stable and therefore signal coordination works better. But the intersecting road network along the Bandera Road corridor doesn't allow this and instead forces high volumes of traffic to turn onto Bandera at one intersection and then leave Bandera at a downstream intersection (see the map near the top of this page.) These "interlopers" consume most or all of the green time at the next downstream signal that was intended for the next platoon of through traffic to use. This results in part or even all of the following platoon getting stopped, making it seem like the signals aren't synchronized. With each cycle, the process repeats and the backups compound.

Here's another way of explaining it. Imagine the signals on northbound Bandera at Grissom turn green and about 100 vehicles go through before it turns red again. We'll call this "Group 1". As those vehicles approach the Poss intersection, the signal turns green and stays green long enough allow those 100 vehicles through before turning red again, and so on for each intersection downstream. The process repeats then with Group 2, 3, etc., and everything is good.

Now imagine that after Group 1 goes through the Eckhert intersection and the light turns green for Eckhert, 50 vehicles turn onto Bandera. They'll get stopped
at Mainland when the light turns red behind Group 1, so there are now 50 vehicles waiting at Mainland. When the 100 vehicles in Group 2 reach that intersection, there will then be 150 vehicles wanting to get through, but since the signal is timed for a platoon of about 100, the 50 who arrived earlier from Eckhert will go and then only about 50 vehicles from Group 2 will make it through, leaving the last 50 waiting. Then, behind them, 50 more vehicles turn onto Bandera from Eckhert. That 50, plus the 50 from Group 2 that didn't get through, means there will then be 100 vehicles waiting at Mainland. Then the next 100 vehicles from Group 3 arrive, and now there are 200 vehicles wanting to get through at Mainland, but only the first 100 (the 50 leftovers from Group 2 and the 50 from Eckhert) will get through, meaning none from Group 3 will make it through

For those in Group 3, it now seems like the signals aren't synchronized since they have to stop and wait through a cycle. But it's not because the signals aren't synchronized that they didn't get through, it's because additional traffic usurped their "slot" at Mainland. And as you can see, with every cycle, those numbers will keep compounding until the volume of traffic entering the corridor decreases below capacity.

So couldn't they just extend the green time at Mainland to account for the additional vehicles from Eckhert? Sure, up to a point, but not much because doing so increases the red time on Mainland and for the southbound left turn, and longer red time of course means additional delays and congestion on those approaches. And this example was only demonstrating how just one intersection can inject enough traffic to break the synchronization. Don't forget that even more traffic is going to turn onto Bandera from Grissom, Poss, Huebner, and the many driveways along the way, so each subsequent intersection downstream would need to have progressively more green time to accommodate each additional cohort of interlopers. This would eventually result in the downstream signals on Bandera having to be green constantly or nearly so in order to allow all that traffic through. That is obviously not a realistic solution. Alternatively, less traffic could be allowed through the Grissom intersection to offset the traffic turning on at Huebner and Eckhert, but that would just cause even longer backups there and therefore is also not practical.

This example shows the limitations of signal coordination. When this situation happens, the traditional solution is to upgrade the corridor to a freeway.

Why did they build the flyovers at Loop 410? They don't really help and were a waste of money.
As is often the case, this perspective ignores the bigger picture. The flyovers at Loop 410 take the heaviest traffic movement at that location and remove it from two already-congested signalized intersections. While traffic coming from Loop 410 to Bandera regularly backs-up during the afternoon rush hour, it does so out of the way of the surface intersections. More importantly, before the flyovers were built, that traffic nearly always backed-up onto the Loop 410 mainlanes, which was a dangerous situation. Now, that traffic is stored safely out of the way. Meanwhile, traffic headed the other way enjoys a good five minutes or more of time savings during the morning rush hour. If and when Bandera through Leon Valley is improved, commuters going from Loop 410 to Bandera during the afternoon rush hour will enjoy the full potential benefits of the existing flyover. While congestion at that location may make it seem like the flyovers don't help, the point that's often forgotten is this: how much worse would the congestion there be without the flyovers?

The existing flyovers have caused several nearby businesses to go under.
I am only aware of one business that has claimed it was harmed by the flyovers. Regardless, there is no objective data (to my knowledge) to support that claim. It could have been a case of that business already having difficulties that were exacerbated by the traffic changes, or, perhaps, the flyovers are being used as a scapegoat. The other established businesses in the area seem to be doing fine. Regardless, congestion is at least equally detrimental to businesses if not more so, so improvements need to be made. While nobody wants to see businesses fail, there will, unfortunately, always be trade-offs whenever a major change is made, and attempts are made to minimize those impacts.

Traffic has been bad on Bandera for decades-- why hasn't anything been done?
As mentioned above, several attempts have been made over the years to improve Bandera,
including adding flyovers at major intersections and an elevated tollway, but the City of Leon Valley vetoed all of the proposals due to fears that those plans would hurt local businesses, which would have a serious impact on the city. New leadership in Leon Valley in recent years has recognized the need for improvements and has indicated a willingness to find solutions, but there's still a long road ahead (pun intended.) A new comprehensive planning effort that includes TxDOT and the cities of Leon Valley and San Antonio is now underway.


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the following for their assistance in providing information about these proposals:


Additional information

TxDOT - SH 16 (Bandera Road) from I-410 to Loop 1604
https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/projects/studies/san-antonio/sh16-banderaroad-I-410-loop1604.html
City of San Antonio - Bandera Road Corridor Plan
https://www.sanantonio.gov/planning/bandera-road-corridor-plan
MySA.com: Elevated highway proposed for Bandera Road to curb traffic woes
https://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/Bandera-Road-s-future-tree-lined-boulevard-12558886.php
Texas Public Radio: Gridlock Gripes: What's The Best Fix For Traffic on Bandera Road?
http://tpr.org/post/gridlock-gripes-whats-best-fix-traffic-bandera-road
KSAT: Leon Valley leaders seek solution to deal with Bandera Road traffic headache
https://www.ksat.com/traffic/leon-valley-leaders-seek-solution-to-deal-with-bandera-road-traffic-headache




If you found this informative, please consider making a small donation to help support it. Thanks!

This page and all its contents are Copyright 2019 by Brian Purcell

NOTICE
The information provided on this website is provided on an "as-is" basis without warranties of any kind either express or implied.  The author and his agents make no warranties or representations of any kind concerning any information contained in this website.  This website is provided only as general information.  The author expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based upon the information contained herein or with respect to any errors or omissions in such information.  All opinions expressed are strictly those of the author.  This site is not affiliated in any way with any official agency.