| San Antonio Area Roads History
|This page last updated September 26, 2022
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,
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.
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.
of US and state highways in downtown San Antonio and the
growth of automobile traffic in the 1930s caused severe congestion in
the central city. To
address this growing problem,
began planning a series of "interregional highways" in the late '30s to
traffic around downtown. However, the outbreak of World War II delayed
this initiative. After
the war ended, the effort resumed with a
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
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.
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
and federal funds that propelled the construction of local
expressways and landed San
Antonio one of the Texas Highway Department's four
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.
Highways in San Antonio from the 1955 "Yellow Book"
that was the blueprint
for the Interstate Highway System
Based on other plans in the works at the time, these seem mostly like "placeholder" routes for the
most part and not exact proposed locations. (Other historical plans are here.)
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
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.
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.
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.
Fredericksburg Rd., N. Flores St.
Austin Hwy., Randolph Blvd.
|| S. Alamo
St., Nogalitos St., New Laredo Hwy.
|| S. Presa
Commerce St., Old Hwy 90 W
the construction of San Antonio's freeway system, several existing
sections of US and State highways in the outlying areas were
freeways. The maps on this page show those sections in dark
gray as "existing non-freeway" roadways until the time they're
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
SH 151, since there was a much longer time between the opening of
the access roads and the full freeway sections, the maps
will show the access road completions as non-freeway
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
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
from the mid-1940s show the earliest proposal for an "Urban Expressway"
network consisting of today's "Downtown Y" sections
I-10 and I-35. Soon, extensions to that core system were
proposed. I-35 North was proposed along what would be its
path. I-35 South was proposed to follow Nogalitos St. from its
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
was proposed to approach the city along the existing US 90 to the
location of today's Loop 410, then head west-northwest to meet I-35 somewhere in the vicinity of Walters St.
section of Loop 410 between NW Military Hwy. and
Harry Wurzbach Rd. was actually part of the longer Harry
Highway, which was a single road connecting Fort
Sam Houston to Camp
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,
November 28, 1949, a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Colorado
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
Pedro Creek to reach downtown. About a
year later, the expressway was extended along that boulevard from
Martin St. where it merged into Pecos St. going southbound and from San
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
1952, leaving a short gap between the two expressway sections along the
west side of downtown.
proposal for I-10 West had now been
modified to run further
to the west and parallel to Fredericksburg Rd., heading northwest from
Fresno Ave. to meet Fredericksburg Rd. just south of Huebner Rd. The
I-35 South proposal would have had it run due south from its
intersection with Nogalitos St. to Southcross Blvd., then southwest
from there to today's intersection of Zarzamora St. (Aviation Rd. at
the time) at I-35, then west from there to join US 81 (New Laredo Hwy.)
city's 1951 master plan, the so-called "Lilly Report" (named after the
city's chief engineer at the time), had three proposals for Loop
13. On the North Side, the proposed route west of NW
Military Hwy. would have routed it to the intersection of Callaghan Rd.
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
miles south along Chavaneaux Rd. from Goliad Rd. west to Palo Alto Rd.
(SH 346 at the time), then west-northwest to US 81, then northwest to
Dwyer Rd. at Covel Rd., then along Dwyer Rd. to US 90 west of Lackland
AFB; most of this
route would eventually become the southern and southwestern sections of
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.
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
Coming from the east, the route would have used today's
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.
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.
first section of I-35 North, from Martin St. to Broadway, had been
and was now open. The first major section of freeway outside of downtown-- the section of I‑35 from Toepperwein Rd. to the
line, including an interchange at Pat Booker Rd.-- was complete
and the section between Fratt and Toepperwein Rd. was starting construction.
Construction on other outlying freeways was also underway including the
first section of access roads for Loop 410 running from US 90 to
Bandera Rd. The alignment for I-35 South
between Nogalitos St. and the future Loop 410 had been adjusted yet again, this
to its final alignment, and the access roads were now under
construction from SW Military Dr. to Loop 410.
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.
alignment for I-10 West had moved again, this time running
north-northwest to intersect with Loop 410 at Vance-Jackson Rd., then
northwest to meet today's I-10 alignment just south of Wurzbach Rd. By
the middle of 1955, however, the ultimate routing between Woodlawn
Ave. and De Zavala Rd. would be set. Interestingly, it seems no local
plans-- at least any that were made public-- show the "Yellow Book"
route that appears to follow Fredericksburg Rd.
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.
public support and federal funding now
covering 90% of
construction costs, expressway planning reached a fevered
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.
latest proposal for I-10 West was for the alignment
that would eventually be built. A new proposal for I-10 east of I-37
routed it along the Bailey Ave. corridor to Clark Ave. before turning
northeast to meet Houston St. just east of Commerce St. The first
proposals for the eventual US 281
North and US 90 West were now known and the routing for the
southeastern arc of Loop 410 had been settled. The eventual route for
I-37 inside Loop 410 was on the books, but as this was still
anticipated to be a freeway for US 181, it followed the US 181 corridor
south of Loop 410. (I-37 wouldn't be in the cards for a couple of years
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. (it will go through
several iterations before being abandoned), and the first proposal
an "inner bypass" west of downtown along Zarzamora St. to connect I-10
to I-35 South bypassing downtown. This bypass was planned to relieve
congestion that had already manifested on the original sections of
I-10; it, too, went through a few versions before getting scrapped.
access roads for I-35
South from SW Military Dr. to New Laredo Hwy were
and the freeway was
now being extended from Nogalitos St. south to
Division Ave. The "semi-freeway" from New Laredo Hwy. south to Loop
1604 was also complete as was the elevated "Central
Expressway" connecting the three previously completed expressways
north and south of downtown and which carried motorists "in the air
through downtown" according
to news reports at the time.
I-35 North from Fratt to Toepperwein Rd. was complete and work on the Fratt interchange was nearing completion.
first section of Loop 410, from Culebra Rd. to Bandera
in 1956 as a two-lane (i.e. one lane in each direction) freeway
(sometimes called a "Super Two") followed a month later by the section
from Culebra Rd. to Marbach Rd. ("Super Two") and Marbach Rd. to US 90
(access roads.) 1957
saw the opening of the Loop 410 mainlnes from Fredericksburg Rd. to
Vance-Jackson Rd. and the access roads from there to San Pedro
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
Loop 1604 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
on, I'll only designate "proposed freeway" sections for Loop
when plans were released to upgrade those f road sections to a freeway.
access roads for Loop 410 from Bandera Rd. to Babcock Rd. and full
freeway from Babcock Rd. to Fredericksburg Rd. were now
complete. I-35 South had been
completed from Nogalitos St. to Division
was under construction between
Division Ave. and SW Military Dr.
North from Broadway to Rittiman Rd. was
now under construction.
West was now under
construction from Loop 410 north to Fredericksburg Rd. and from
Woodlawn Ave. to Fresno St.
The southwest segment of Loop 410 between US 90 and Pearsall Rd.
was complete and was under construction from there to I-35.
final routings for I-10 East inside Loop 410 and for I-37 had finally
been mapped. I-10 East from just inside Loop 410 to FM 1516 was
The Bandera Expressway, Roosevelt Ave. expressway, and inner bypass had been dropped from plans.
sections of freeway were now open to traffic. The earlier sections of Loop 410 between US 90 and NW
Military Dr. that were initially built as access roads had now been upgraded to
freeway, and the section from Pearsall Rd. to I-35 was complete. 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 system. Loop 410
on the South Side between I-35 and Roosevelt Ave. was under construction.
I-35 South was now complete; the previous section of I-35 South that
had been built as access roads had now been upgraded to a full freeway.
North from AT&T Center Pkwy. to Rittiman Rd. was now open while
the remaining sections between Broadway and AT&T Center Pkwy. and from Rittiman Rd. to Fratt were nearing
now complete from Loop 410 north to Fredericksburg Rd. and
from Woodlawn Ave. to
Fresno St. and was under construction from Fresno St. to Loop 410. The
section of I-10
East from FM 1516 eastward was also under construction.
the first section of the two-lane FM 1604 was complete between
I-10 West and US 281 followed shortly thereafter by the section from I-10 to Bandera Rd.
federal Interstate Highway funding now pouring-in and approval from
city voters of another expressway bond proposal, construction
continuing briskly. In 1962, all of I-35 in Bexar County was open, making I-35 the
first metropolitan Interstate in Texas to be fully completed. I-10 West
was now complete inside Loop 410 and was under construction from Leon
Springs to Boerne. I-10 East was complete east of WW White Rd. and was under
construction from there to E Houston St.
410 on the South Side was open from I-35 east to Roosevelt Ave, most of
eastern arc from I-35 south to S WW White
Rd. was complete, and the sections between San Pedro Ave. and I-35
been upgraded to a full freeway by this time.
first sections of US 90
from I-35 to Cupples Rd. and Loop 410 to Pinn Rd., were just starting
construction. An additional section of the
two-lane FM 1604 from US 281 to Bulverde Rd. was complete.
now on the
drawing boards including Spur 371 (the "Kelly Access Freeway", now
General Hudnell Dr.) and a resurrection of the previously-proposed
Bandera Expressway with a routing that had it starting on the East Side
near Commerce St. at Monument St., then crossing south of
generally along today's Cesar Chavez Blvd., then along El Paso St.
to Zarzamora St. before turning northwest to run mostly
parallel to and just to the west of Bandera Rd. before ending at Loop
routing of the North
Expressway (US 281 North), which would soon become quite controversial,
was now being fleshed-out. Two small
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
spur in conjunction with elaborate distribution ramps for the other
freeways surrounding downtown.
construction continued to move forward full-steam in preparation for HemisFair in 1968. By 1967, the bulk of
today's freeway system was either 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.
first section of US
90 West from I-35 to Cupples Rd. was open as well as the access roads
between Loop 410 and Pinn Rd. I-10 between I-35 and I-37 was completed
as was Spur 371 (General Hudnell
was complete from US 181 to SE Military Dr. and from I-10 to Florida
St., and was under construction between I-10 and SE Military Dr.
FM 1604 had been
extended south from Bandera Rd. to Culebra Rd. and from Bulverde Rd. to Pat Booker Rd. I-10
West from Leon Springs to Boerne and beyond was complete and was under construction between Leon Springs and Fredericksburg Rd.
Controversy was swirling around both the
Bandera Expressway and the North Expressway. The San Pedro Ave.
for US 281 appear to have been scrapped.
When HemisFair opened in 1968, most of the city's freeway system was in
place. All of I-10 and I-35 were open. US 90 West
was complete inside Loop 410, and I-37 between I-10 and SE Military
Dr. had been opened. The section of I-37's right-of-way next to the HemisFair area had been
temporarily paved and used as a parking lot
for the fair, but work started shortly after the fair closed to complete the freeway from Florida St. north to I-35.
FM 1604 had been extended to US 90 West and to I-10 East.
this time, controversy was beginning to rage over the Bandera
Expressway (also occasionally referred to as the "Hill Country
Expressway"). A new alignment for the route west of Zarzamora St. had
been proposed which had it veering west at 24th St. a few blocks north
of Commerce St., then gradually turning northwest at Acme Rd. to cross
Loop 410 near Culebra Rd. before more-or-less following Leon Creek to
Bandera Rd., then along Bandera Rd. to Loop 1604.
making a renewed appearance in freeway plans was the I-10 bypass, which
would run in the Navidad St. corridor from I-10 near Fulton to US 90. A
large interchange was planned where it would intersect the Bandera
Expressway east of the Guadalupe/Zarzamora intersection. Both the
Bandera Expressway and I-10 bypass faced opposition due to the large
number of homes and businesses that would be displaced
and its possible impact on federal funding for the "Model Cities" urban
renewal area on the near West Side, which both expressways would bisect.
over both US 281 North and the Bandera Expressway continued to rage on.
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
city to complete the
freeway without federal funding and work resumed
the previous Bandera Expressway route had been scrapped due to its
path through the Model Cities 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; this route skirted the
Model Cities area to the north. In addition, a new route
the I-10 bypass was
proposed that shortened its length and took it closer to downtown
following the railroad corridors, which allowed it to skirt the Model
Cities area on the east.
the controversies, I-37 had been
completed downtown and work had started on it from US 181
south to the Loop 1604 area. FM 1604 had been extended south from US 90 all the way to SH 16 South.
over US 281 North was finally over and the freeway
opened in 1978 with the last section of the original plan, from San
Pedro Ave. to Bitters Rd., under construction.
The Bandera Expressway, however,
had been scrapped by this time along with the I-10 bypass. Instead, planning was now underway to double-deck I-10.
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.
the mid '80s, suburban growth was beginning 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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
freeway mainlanes from Old Highway 90 to Callaghan Rd. were under
construction. Proposals to finish the SH 151 freeway were now
on the books.
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.
first section of
the Wurzbach Parkway was open from Wetmore Rd. to O'Connor Rd. and the
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.
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
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.
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
on the first phase to expand Loop 1604 West, from Bandera Rd. to SH
was now underway. New funding that would allow the expansion of US 281 to proceed without tolls was approved.
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.
pages of interest on this site