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SH-211 Other San Antonio Area Roads
State Highway 211 (Texas Research Parkway)

This page last updated November 10, 2020

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SH 211 location map

History

Initial segment
While the concept of a north-south highway in far western Bexar County has been around since the late 1960s, it wasn't until the mid '80s that an actual need for such a road materialized. In 1986, land was donated for the now-defunct Texas Research Park, a planned campus of biomedical research organizations and pharmaceutical companies in far western Bexar County just off FM 1957 (Potranco Rd.) This location was accessible only by Potranco Rd., and local leaders knew that to make it successful, they would need better access. Taking their cue from the then recently-built SH 151, where the land for the road was entirely donated, officials lined-up donated land to build a highway from US 90 to Potranco Rd. The State Dept. of Highways and Public Transportation (now TxDOT) accepted the land and built the highway, SH 211. The road opened in 1990 as a two-lane rural highway, but enough right-of-way was acquired for a future freeway. 

Second segment built, but middle segment stalled
Realizing the likely future growth of the area, officials made plans to extend the route northward to SH 16 (Bandera Rd.) Using donated land once more, the segment from Bandera Rd. south to FM 471 (Culebra Rd.) was completed in 1991. However, some land owners along the proposed middle section between Culebra Rd. and Potranco Rd. opted not to donate their land. Per the agreement with the state, land for the project was required to either be donated or purchased by Bexar and Medina counties, neither of which had the funding to do so. And given that there was no significant need for the route at that time, there was no political will to provide funding. This resulted in efforts to acquire the right-of-way for that section to stall, leaving the middle section unbuilt. However, that section remained in the major thoroughfare plan to preserve the corridor for the route, and TxDOT periodically updated the environmental clearances for it to keep it "shovel-ready". 

Opposition to far northern extension
Meanwhile, more virulent opposition emerged when the highway department announced they were planning yet another extension of 211, this time an approximately 14 mile stretch from SH 16 north and east to I-10 and on to FM 3351 (Ralph Fair Rd.) in far northwest Bexar County. The owner of property just north of SH 16 planned to donate a swath of land for the road. However, this path, as well as the topography of the area, limited the possible corridor for the highway to the north and resulted in the preferred alignment, as well as several of the alternatives, to run through the middle of an adjacent historic ranch (see map below.) The owners of that ranch vehemently opposed the road and hired a lawyer and an environmental firm to fight the state. A smorgasbord of issues, ranging from endangered species to water quality to archaeological finds, was proffered. Efforts were made by the state at a compromise but to no avail. Other property owners in the area along the various alternate routes then joined in opposing the plan. During the fracas, the owner of the property just north of SH 16 that was to have been donated passed-away, and the subsequent inheritor of the property then withdrew the offer to donate it for the project. Given all of these factors (and the political fallout from the publication of a clearly biased piece in Texas Monthly on the drama), the proposal for that extension was shelved in 1992, and there have been no plans to resurrect it. However, the recently-formed Scenic Loop-Helotes Creek Alliance has indicated it may support revisiting a SH 211 extension, ostensibly to reduce traffic on Scenic Loop Road.


Circa 1992 map of possible routes for SH 211 extension
(Source: TxDOT)

South extension
TxDOT briefly considered an extension of the route south to I-35, but that appears to have been short-lived. There were also preliminary discussions of continuing the route around Camp Bullis and east to I-35 near New Braunfels, but with the tabling of the the SH 16 to I-10 segment, those plans also never progressed very far.

"Road to nowhere"
While the first segment provided an obvious benefit in connecting the research park to US 90, the other segment (from Culebra Rd. to Bandera Rd.) has often been cited by some (short-sighted) people as being a "road to nowhere", especially given the lack of the Culebra Rd. to Potranco Rd. segment. The fact that much of the land was donated caused some to believe that the road was built to encourage development in western Bexar County. TxDOT, however, has always maintained that the road was built to get ahead of the growth and preserve a corridor at minimal cost before development encroaches, costs increase, and the need becomes acute, thus reflecting the type of long-range planning that many citizens say they want. TxDOT cited the fact that when Loop 1604 was planned in the 1960s, it was way beyond the edge of the city and many people at that time also lambasted it as a "road to nowhere", but the wisdom of that foresight is quite evident today.

It's worth noting that despite what was alleged two decades ago, virtually no development occurred along SH 211 itself until recently. Instead, as predicted by planners, development has marched outward along Potranco Rd., Culebra Rd., and Bandera Rd., and SH 211 is becoming the efficacious lateral connector it was envisioned to be. Indeed, the need for completing SH 211-- and the wisdom of its existence-- is becoming acutely more evident every day as traffic counts on 211 at Potranco have nearly doubled over the past four years, and the count on 211 at Bandera is up 47% over that same time.


SH 211 between Culebra Rd. and Bandera Rd.
(Photo by Brian Purcell)

Current plans

Culebra-Potranco segment
With growth exploding in far western Bexar County, officials began working again in 2007 to acquire the necessary right-of-way and funding for the missing middle segment from Potranco Rd. to Culebra Rd., and TxDOT began the process to again update its environmental reviews for the entire corridor both in anticipation of constructing the middle section as well as for possible future upgrades of the corridor to a divided highway or freeway. Due to state highway funding limitations at the time, Bexar County and the Texas Transportation Commission approved a "pass-through financing" agreement in late 2009 whereby Bexar County will build the missing segment and be reimbursed by the state over several years.

During planning, several karst species and habitat in the area were added to federal endangered species protection; this required an expanded environmental study and a realignment of portions of the route to avoid those features. That expanded study, along with additional difficulties in obtaining right-of-way, caused the planned start date to slip several times.

Finally, on November 10, 2020, a construction contract was awarded by Bexar County. Work began in early 2021 and is anticpated to be complete in mid 2022.

Interchanges
An upcoming project (2022 timeframe) to widen Culebra Rd. from Talley Rd. to the county line will add an overpass and interchange for SH 211. Another project on US 90 will reconfigure the interchange with SH 211 there.

(SH 211 is authorized by Minute Order 88108 [November 29, 1988]. The order includes the section from SH 16 to I-10.)




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

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