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

San Antonio
Freeway system
Other roads
  Roads & other history
    Pre-Interstate routes
    Freeway system
    281/410 interchange
    Military roads
    Humble Oil station
  Historical photos
    I-10 East/US 90
    I-10 West/US 87
    I-35/US 81 North
    I-35/US 81 South
    Loop 410 (Part 1)
    Loop 410 (Part 2)
    Loop 410/San Pedro
    SH 151
    Loop 1604
    Austin Highway
    Bandera/Culebra Rds
    Downtown Y Intchg
    Fratt Interchange
    Fredericksburg Rd
    Other North Side
    Freeway plans

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


San Antonio Area Roads History
Freeway System History

This page last updated December 5, 2021


Below 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, newspaper 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.

This 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.


The convergence of US and state highways in downtown San Antonio and the dramatic growth of automobile traffic in the 1930s caused severe congestion in the central city. To address this growing problem, officials began planning a series of "interregional highways" in the late '30s to carry through traffic around downtown. However, the outbreak of World War II delayed this initiative. After the war ended, the effort resumed with a meeting of 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 early 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.

That 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 leverage state and federal funds that propelled the construction of local expressways and landed San Antonio one of the Texas Highway Department's four Urban 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 Interstates in SA in 1956 Yellow Book

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)

Beyond the 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 today. 

Below 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.

In 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.

Early 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.

US 87 SH 9 SH 27 Fredericksburg Rd., N. Flores St.
US 90 SH 3 E. Commerce St.
US 81 SH 2 Broadway, Austin Hwy., Randolph Blvd.
US 81 SH 2 S. Alamo St., Nogalitos St., New Laredo Hwy.
I-37 US 181 SH 16 S. Presa St.
US 90
US 90 SH 3 W. Commerce St., Old Hwy 90 W
US 281
US 281 SH 66 San Pedro Ave.
N/A LP 13 LP 410 N/A


Pre-1945 map

Map legend

During the construction of San Antonio's freeway system, several existing sections of US and State highways in the outlying areas were upgraded to freeways. The maps on this page show those sections in dark gray as "existing non-freeway" roadways until the time they're upgraded. 

Notes: Several 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 stages. For SH 151, since there was a much longer time between the opening of the access roads and the full freeway sections, the maps below will show the access road completions as non-freeway route with 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 to such 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 subsequent years.


1949 map

Map legend

City maps from the mid-1940s show the earliest proposal for an "Urban Expressway" network consisting of today's "Downtown Y" sections of I-10 and I-35. Soon, extensions to that core system were proposed. I-35 North was proposed along what would be its eventual path. I-35 South was proposed to follow Nogalitos St. from its intersection with 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 East 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 AT&T Center Parkway and join I-35. 

Today's section of Loop 410 between NW Military Hwy. and Harry Wurzbach Rd. was actually part of the longer Harry Wurzbach Military Highway, which was a single road connecting Fort Sam Houston to Camp Bullis.


1952 map

Map legend

Construction 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, 1949. On November 28, 1949, a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Colorado St. 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 San Pedro Creek to reach downtown. About a year later, the expressway was extended along that boulevard from Frio St. to Martin St. where it merged into Pecos St. going southbound and from San Saba St. coming 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 late 1952, leaving a short gap between the two expressway sections along the west side of downtown.

The 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 Laredo Hwy., then south from there. 

The 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. and 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 of 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.

Although 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 expressway. Coming from the east, the route would have used today's I-10 to 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. Mary's 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.


1957 map

Map legend

The first section of I-35 North, from Martin St. to Broadway, had been completed and was now open. The section of I‑35 from Toepperwein Rd. to the county line-- including an interchange at Pat Booker Rd.-- was also complete and the section between Fratt and Toepperwein Rd. was just starting construction.

Large 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 between Military Dr. and the future Loop 410 had been adjusted yet again, this time to its final alignment, and the access roads were now under construction.

There was no 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.

The 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 "Yellow Book".

Routing 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.


1957 map

Map legend

With strong public support and federal funding now covering 90% of construction costs, expressway planning reached a fevered pitch by 1957. By 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.

The latest proposal for I-10 West was for the alignment that would eventually be built. A new proposal for I-10 East appears to have 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.

Several 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 for an "inner bypass" west of downtown along Zarzamora St. to connect I-10 West to I-35 South bypassing downtown. This was planned to relieve congestion that had already manifested on the original sections of I-10.

The access roads for I-35 South from SW Military Dr. to New Laredo Hwy were complete and were now under construction from Nogalitos south to Division Ave. The elevated "Central Expressway", connecting I-35 North and South and which would carry motorists "in the air through downtown" according to news reports at the time, was also under construction.

The first section of Loop 410, from Culebra Rd. to Bandera Rd., opened 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 were under construction. 

The 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 1604 in 1959.  

Note: 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 this point on, I'll only designate "proposed freeway" sections for Loop 1604 when plans were released to upgrade those sections to a freeway.


1959 map

Map legend

The elevated "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.

The 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 Ave. and was under construction between Division Ave. and SW Military Dr. 

I-35 North from Broadway to Rittiman Rd. was now under construction.  

I-10 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 also under construction.

The earlier proposal for I-37 disappeared during this time as it was under additional study.

The final routing for I-10 East had finally been selected.


1961 map

Map legend

Substantial 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 full 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.

All of 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 expressway. 

I-35 North from Broadway to Rittiman Rd. and north of Fratt were open while construction on the remaining section between Rittiman Rd. and Fratt was nearing completion.

I-10 West was 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.

Finally, the first sections of the two-lane FM 1604 were now complete between I-10 West and US 281.


1964 map

Map legend

With federal Interstate Highway funding now pouring-in and approval from city voters of another expressway bond proposal, construction was 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.

All of I-35 through Bexar County was now complete, making it the first county in Texas to complete its construction of I-35.

Loop 410 on the South Side was open from I-35 east to S Presa St., most of the eastern arc from I-35 North to S WW White Rd. was complete, and the sections between San Pedro Ave. and I-35 North had been upgraded to a full freeway by this time.

The first sections of US 90 West, from I-35 to Cupples Rd. and Loop 410 to Pinn Rd., were just starting construction. Additional sections of the two-lane FM 1604 were now complete across the North Side from Bandera Rd. to I-10 East.

New routes were 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 downtown 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 US 90.

The routing of the North Expressway (US 281 North), which would soon become quite controversial, was now being fleshed-out. Two small freeway 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 feeder spur in conjunction with elaborate distribution ramps for the other freeways surrounding downtown.  


1967 map

Map legend

Freeway 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.

The first section of US 90 West from I-35 to Cupples Rd. was open and SP 371 (General Hudnell Dr.) was also complete. 

I-37 was under construction from Florida St. to US 181. FM 1604 had been extended south from Bandera Rd. to Culebra Rd.

I-10 West from Leon Springs to Boerne and beyond was complete.

The Bandera Expressway proposal was unchanged. The battle over the path for US 281 near Hildebrand Ave. was raging at this time. The San Pedro Ave. and St. Mary's connectors for US 281 appear to have been scrapped by this time.


1968 map

Map legend

As 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 from Florida 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.


1973 map

Map legend

The controversy over the proposed US 281 North continued on into the new decade and a fight over another freeway-- the Bandera Expressway-- was gearing-up.

Work on the 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 and city to complete the freeway without federal funding and work resumed immediately.  

Meanwhile, the original Bandera Expressway route had been scrapped due to city officials' concerns about its path through the "Model Cities" urban renewal 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 for 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.

Amid 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.


1979 map

Map legend

The bitter war 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.

The 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.


1984 map

Map legend

By 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. 


1987 map

Map legend

The 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.)


1990 map

Map legend

The 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.

Work to 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.


2000 map

Map legend

At 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 the freeway mainlanes from Old Highway 90 to Callaghan Rd. were under construction. Proposals to finish the SH 151 freeway were now on the books. 

An 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. 

The first section of the Wurzbach Parkway was open from Wetmore Rd. to O'Connor Rd. and the segment 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.


2005 map

Map legend

Work 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 segments.

Previous 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.


2012 map

Map legend

Work 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 toll lanes.


2015 map

Map legend

Construction on the first phase to expand Loop 1604 West, from Bandera Rd. to SH 151, was now underway. New funding that would allow the expansion of US 281 to proceed without tolls was approved.


2020 map

Map legend

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.

Other pages of interest on this site

San Antonio Roads History
Historical information and photos.  

Other sites of interest

TexasFreeway.com (by Ron Jackson)
Dallas-Ft. Worth Freeways 
Houston Freeways

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

This page and all its contents are Copyright 2022 by Brian Purcell

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.