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
last updated March 10, 2017
planners have determined that simply adding new general-purpose lanes in
major corridors is only a short-term fix. Before long, the
new lanes are just as congested as before and there's only so much room
to add new lanes. Instead, transportation projects need to
focus on moving people,
not just cars. High-occupancy vehicles (HOV) lanes are one way
to do that and have been successfully used in many cities in the United
States and abroad. In Texas, Houston and Dallas currently have
HOV lanes and San Antonio will soon join them.
the removal of proposed toll lanes from planned expansion projects on
I-10 West and US 281 outside Loop 1604, planners realized an
opportunity to include San Antonio's
first HOV lanes in those projects. These two locations will serve
as "starter" HOV projects. Additionally, carpools will
likely be allowed in planned managed lanes on Loop 1604 and planners
are already considering how to continue
the I-10 and US 281 HOV lanes inside Loop 1604.
I-10 HOV lanes will be located between La Cantera Pkwy and Ralph Fair Rd.
On US 281, the HOV lanes will run between Evans Rd and Borgfeld Rd.
Below are typical cross-sections for the HOV lanes on I-10 and US 281:
- What will be the requirements to use the HOV lanes?
is planned that both the I-10 and US 281 HOV lanes will be open to
vehicles with two or more passengers (HOV 2+), transit vehicles,
motorcycles, and emergency vehicles. The HOV lanes will operate
- I will not use the HOV lane, so it won't benefit me. My taxes shouldn't pay for something I won't use.
if you don't use the HOV lane, you will still get the benefit of it in
that every vehicle that uses the HOV lane is one or more vehicles that
won't be in the general-purpose mainlanes, thus reducing congestion
there. We all pay taxes
for many things we don't use or directly benefit from but that benefit
everyone generally. Don't forget that the people who will use the HOV
lanes are also taxpayers.
- Instead of an HOV lane, another general-purpose mainlane would provide more capacity.
Yes, having an extra
mainlane in place of an HOV lane would provide more general-purpose capacity. But the benefit would be short-lived because that extra lane
will soon also become congested and will leave less room (if any) then to expand.
With an HOV lane, planners build-in a corridor that can be used
now and well into the future to move more people
per vehicle through the corridor, people who won't be clogging the
mainlanes in their single-occupancy cars. Freeway corridors are
more than just pathways for vehicles-- they're high-capacity transportation
corridors that need to be considered not only for their ability to move
vehicles, but also their ability to move people. These two
purposes can coexist and HOV lanes are a way of doing that.
A new general-purpose mainlane, while providing immediate
gratification, is myopic in the long-run; HOV lanes reflect a
more sophisticated long-term planning desired by many citizens.
- Nobody wants HOV lanes.
simply not true. Of the over 3,500 respondents to the recent SA
Tomorrow transportation planning survey, 76% either agreed or
strongly-agreed that HOV lanes should be an important part of San
Antonio's transportation future. Anecdotally, the author of this website attends nearly
every public meeting for transportation projects and has consistently
heard broad-based citizen support for HOV lanes.
- Why build short stretches of HOV lanes on I-10 and US 281 when
there aren't any others in San Antonio?
inclusion of HOV lanes in freeway projects is a recent change in
local transportation planning and the I-10 and US 281 projects were in development when
that policy was put into effect, so HOV lanes were included in those projects.
Consquently, these could be considered "starter" HOV lanes. Beyond those,
carpools will likely be allowed in planned managed lanes on Loop 1604
and planners are already considering how to continue
the US 281 and I-10 HOV lanes inside 1604 in addition to adding them to
other freeways in San Antonio. Remember
freeway system started with a short section of I-10 between Woodlawn and
Culebra that provided no significant connectivity but was part of a
plan. "Rome wasn't built
in a day."
- How will the HOV lanes be enforced?
Each HOV lane will have enforcement bays where police can monitor HOV usage. Violators can be ticketed and fined.
- Where will traffic be able to enter and exit the HOV lanes?
lanes will be located in the center of the freeway between the opposing
general-purpose mainlanes. Therefore, traffic will enter the HOV
lane from the leftmost general-purpose mainlane and traffic exiting the
HOV lane will merge into the left mainlane. To maintain safe
traffic flow in the HOV lane and adjacent mainlanes, traffic can only
enter and exit HOV lanes at designated locations. These include
each end of the HOV lane as well as intermediate locations generally
spaced two to three miles apart. These entrances and exits will
be marked with special signage with the standard black and white
diamond symbol to differentiate it from the signs for the
general-purpose lanes. Exits from the HOV lane will typically be
marked to show the upcoming freeway exits that are accessible by
leaving the HOV lane at that point. The HOV exit is placed an adequate distance upstream from those exits so that traffic has sufficient room to safely merge to the right to reach the intended exit.
US 281 HOV lane will also have a dedicated elevated ramp from the HOV
lane into the Stone Oak Park & Ride garage currently under
- How will the HOV lanes be separated from the general-purpose mainlanes?
both I-10 and US 281, a wide marked buffer area will delineate the HOV
lane. On US 281, it was previously proposed to use flexible
bollards between the HOV lane and the mainlanes, but the final plan has
removed those and instead will use only the buffer area. Barriers
can be added at a later time if it is determined they're warranted.
Rendering of I-10 HOV lane looking inbound north of Dominion Dr
Rendering of US 281 HOV lane looking northbound at the VIA Park & Ride south of Stone Oak Blvd
(The southbound HOV lane is not visible behind the elevated ramp)
sites of interest