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San Antonio Area Roads & More
Which Military? (And the history of the
local military roads)

This page last updated March 3, 2018



San Antonio is known for having an unusual number of street naming idiosyncrasies that confound locals and visitors alike. One of those is that there are three distinct roadways with "Military" in their name: SE/SW Military Drive, Military Drive West, and NW Military Highway. Here is the breakdown of each:

  • SE/SW Military Drive: This roadway, also designated as Loop 13, is the main "drag" of the South Side of San Antonio running from S WW White Road near Loop 410 westward crossing both I-37 and I-35. It becomes Military Drive West (see next bullet) somewhere near Whitewood St. just west of Pearsall Rd. S Flores St. is the dividing line between SW and SE Military Dr.

  • Military Drive West: Military Drive West, also sometimes called W Military Dr., continues north from the end of SW Military. If you're not paying attention to the signs, you won't even notice the name change. It runs through the middle of Lackland AFB before crossing US 90 (where the Loop 13 designation ends), SH 151, and Loop 410. Presently, it ends at Potranco Rd., but another leg of Military Drive West starts a short distance north of there near Reed Rd. and runs westward crossing SH 151 again, passing south of Sea World, and crossing Loop 1604 before ending at Grosenbacher Rd. The two sections are actually part of the same planned road-- the gap between Potranco and Reed is scheduled to be built in the next few years.

  • NW Military Highway: This is a completely separate roadway that runs from Loop 410 through Castle Hills to Camp Bullis. Although it has the word "Highway" in its name, it's actually just a surface roadway and is also designated FM 1535.

Military convoy on Blanco Rd. between San Antonio and Camp Bullis
(ca. 1935/TxDOT)


The military has always played a key role in the area's economy and, as a result, has always been given special attention in the area's road development. The roads discussed above were all built to connect the area's military bases. In the 1930s, 
Military Road (later Military Drive) was built to connect Kelly Field to Brooks Field. In 1938, the state began planning Loop 13 to connect area's military bases and it included the original stretch of Military Road. In the early 1940s, it was extended west from Kelly through the new San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center (later renamed Lackland AFB) to US 90 and east from Brooks to and along WW White Road (the northern section of which, at that time, ran over today's Springfield Road) north to the old Seguin Road (FM 78), also known as Randolph Field Road; this connected the eastern end of Fort Sam Houston to Randolph Field. 

NW Military Highway was part of the longer "Harry Wurzbach Military Highway" (eventually referred to simply as "Military Highway") that connected Fort Sam Houston to Camp Bullis, then known as Leon Springs Military Reservation. It was built sometime around 1945 to replace a very circuitous route that accessed Camp Bullis via Blanco Road. The new road encompassed today's Harry Wurzbach Rd., NW Military Hwy., and the stretch of today's Loop 410 in between (part pf which at the time was a road named Zercher Road); this is why Harry Wurzbach and NW Military bend toward each other at Loop 410. (For more information on the history of the Harry Wurzbach name, see the Which Wurzbach? page.)

Around 1952, Loop 13 was extended north from FM 78 along today's I-35/Loop 410 to meet US 81 at Fratt and then west from there along today's Loop 410 to Harry Wurzbach, tying it in to the route to Camp Bullis.

Military Drive West north of US 90 was not part of the original Military Drive; the first section was built in 1961 primarily to serve new residential areas sprouting up north of Lackland. Over the years, it has been extended further north and west with an overpass for it at Loop 410 built in 1982.

Harry Wurzbach, coincidentally, is part of another example of the local phenomenon of multiple roads with similar names: the three roads named Wurzbach.

Some other interesting local road history involves local military installations. In the 1920s, the original state highway to the northeast (going to New Braunfels, Austin, and beyond) crossed Ft. Sam Houston. Coming north from downtown along N New Braunfels Ave., it passed through Ft. Sam, then turned east onto Eleanor St. and Old Austin Rd. along the edge of the post, then crossed through Ft. Sam again and onto the eventual Harry Wurzbach before continuing northeast onto Corinne Dr. and Austin Hwy.

Before the current runway was built at Kelly Field during World War II, Frio City Rd. connected to today's Old Pearsall Rd. at SW Military (looking at a map, you can see how they line up) and was the route from San Antonio to (you guessed it) Pearsall. Part of that road is now General Hudnell Dr. on Port San Antonio. When Kelly Field was first established in 1917, it occupied the area between that road and the railroad tracks along Quintana. A second military field, Kelly Field #2, was built shortly thereafter in the area immediately northwest of the original site with the road dividing the two. During WW II, the two airfields (then known as Kelly Field and Duncan Field) were combined and expanded and the road through the consolidated Kelly Field was severed in order to build a new, longer runway. 

Map of the military roads (ca. 1945) in San Antonio overlaid over today's freeway network

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This page and all its contents are Copyright 2018 by Brian Purcell

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