Antonio Area Freeway System
last updated April 25, 2021
conventions and coverage
Site coverage: The
area covered by the "San Antonio freeway system" section of this site
is generally the urban and suburban freeways. In that past, that was
fairly easily discernible by one-way access roads and continuous
streetlighting, but over the years, the lines have become more blurred
as TxDOT has extended one-way access roads into the surrounding
hinterland and streetlighting has become a bit more inconsistent. So I
use a completely subjective determination on where I draw the line. As
of right now, here are the boundaries of the freeways I cover:
- I-10 East: Pfeil Rd.
- I-10 West: Ralph Fair Rd.
- I-35 North: FM 482/FM 2252
- I-35 South: Loop 1604
- I-37: US 181
- US 90 West: Loop 1604
- US 281 North: Sonterra Pkwy. (will be extended to the Comal county line upon completion of the freeway expansion)
These will change over time as the city grows.
1604 is covered along its freeway section (currently US 90 West around
to FM 78.) Loop 410, SH 151, General Hudnell Drive/Spur 371, and Wurzbach
Parkway are covered in their entirety.
of major projects on I-10 west toward Boerne, I-35 north toward New
Braunfels, and Loop 1604 on the South Side is included in the "Other
Antonio Roads" section.
segments: Information about the
various freeways is divided by freeway
based on logical divisions of the
routes, or at least what seem to me to be the logical
divisions. Routes with more than one segment are given directional
identifiers based on their position relative to downtown. For example,
I-35 North is the segment of I-35
of downtown. Interstate 37, Spur
SH 151, and the Wurzbach and Kelly Parkways are all
single-segmented. Loops 410 and 1604 are also single-segmented for the
purposes of this site, although they are divided into north, south,
east, and west segments for addressing and general referral. US 90 and
US 281 are technically two-segmented,
but one of their two segments runs concurrent with an Interstate, so
only the non-concurrent segments are listed as the US route. For
example, US 281 South runs concurrent with I-37, so you will
page for US 281 South; see I-37 instead.
On this site, directions such as "northbound", "southbound",
"eastbound", or "westbound" are used-- these indicate the specific
along a given freeway route. For I-10 West, since it is
east/west but actually runs more north-south, "inbound"
(i.e. toward downtown) or "outbound" are sometimes used instead if needed to avoid confusion.
all together: So, what does
"southbound I-35 North" mean? The southbound lanes of Interstate 35
north of downtown.
on with the
basic statistics about San Antonio's freeways. All statistics
from the Federal Highway Administration (2017 data) and cover the San
Antonio Urbanized Area. The number in parenthesis is the San
Antonio's rank nationally for that category for the top 100 urbanized
miles of freeway: 258
highway miles: 142
and State highway freeway miles: 86
of local roads that are freeways: 3.2%
vehicle miles driven on freeways: 24,890,000
of total local daily traffic carried on freeways: 50.9%
freeway network was designed on the spoke-and-loop system. Eight
radials, two loops, a spur, and a crosstown parkway make up the system.
goal of the system's planners in the 1950s was that no Bexar County
be more than 30 minutes from downtown San Antonio. With
traffic and overall growth of the city, the new rule is more like 30-45
minutes, but the spirit of
that goal-- a comprehensive controlled-access highway network-- has
been realized. San Antonio is a classic example of a city
would come to a grinding stop without its freeways. Many
destinations require a freeway trip, including many short-distance
journeys. Only a swath of the northwestern part of the city
relatively close freeway access.
Lane counts on this site include the total lanes in both directions.
Thus, a freeway with three lanes in each direction is labeled as a
six-lane freeway. Counts are for general-purpose through
lanes; auxiliary lanes of less than a mile are not included
nor are HOV lanes.
the past, most
of the city's busy freeway segments outside downtown were six lanes,
but over the past couple of decades, many of them have been expanded to
eight and 10
lanes. In 2005, about
nine miles of freeway were 10 lanes; today, there are roughly 30 miles,
with more planned.
Lane counts do not
include short (< 1 mile) auxiliary
or transition lanes or HOV lanes.
roads & turnarounds
frontage roads extensively, and San Antonio is no exception. Locally,
they're traditionally referred to as "access roads." Only about
one-fourth of the freeways here don't have access
roads. These include sizable sections of I-10 East, I-37 South, US 281
Loop 410, and about half of US 90 West. The downtown
also lack access roads. In these areas, interchange types used in
rest of the world are used.
lanes are usually provided at intersections to allow traffic to
turn-around and head the opposite direction on the opposite frontage
road without having to traverse the signalized intersection. In
San Antonio, these are known as "turnarounds" and generally signed as
For more information on frontage roads and turnarounds, see my Texas Highways primer.
barriers and fencing
in Texas have shifted away from conventional Jersey Barrier (sometimes
called "K-rails") to Constant
Slope Barriers. All new projects in the San Antonio area
the early '90s have featured the newer type of barrier.
Fencing/glare screens atop the median barriers used to be universal on
freeways. Due to increasing maintenance costs, median barrier
phased out from new projects starting in the late '80s, and
damaged sections were not replaced. Fifteen miles of fencing
removed in 1996 on Loop 410 to accommodate conduit for TransGuide fiber
optic cable atop the center barrier, and the fencing was removed from
all of the other local freeways circa 2000.
barrier fencing, ramp meter signals are now a thing of the past in San
Antonio. The first ramp control signal was installed in May
on the entrance ramp from Culebra to eastbound I-10. By 1980,
there were nine locations equipped with meter signals. All
one of these were in the downtown area along I-10 or I-35. The
exception was the southbound US 281 entrance ramp from eastbound
Basse. San Antonio even had a rarity in ramp metering:
meter signal on a freeway-to-freeway ramp, specifically the southbound
US 281 ramp to southbound I-35.
along I-10 in 1981 at the Fredericksburg Rd.
entrance to inbound I-10
(Source: San Antonio-Bexar County Urban Transportation Study)
addition to the meter signals, there were also two entrance ramp
gates-- one on the entrance ramp from Colorado to eastbound
one on the entrance from St. Mary's to southbound I-35 (both of these
ramps no longer exist.) These
gates were used to close the entrance ramps
the morning rush hour to help reduce congestion caused by traffic
influx and weaving
problems associated with the proximities of those entrances to other
The "Downtown Y" double-decking project (see below) during the '80s
removed all of the signals and gates along I-10 and I-35. For a
long while, the ramp meter on the Basse entrance ramp to US 281 was the
last one remaining in the city, although it was rarely used. It
was upgraded in early 2005
with new equipment, but subsequently removed entirely in June 2005.
(Source: San Antonio-Bexar County Urban Transportation Study)
freeways (The "Downtown Y Project")
miles of I-10 and I-35 around downtown San Antonio are
double-decked. These freeways were rebuilt as part of the
million "Downtown Y" project from 1983 to 1994. Named for the
formed by I-10 and I-35 west of downtown, the project improved 10
miles of the seminal four-lane freeway system built in the late '40s
early '50s. Besides being obsolete, those freeways had suffered from
chronic congestion almost since they had opened. Earlier proposals to
relieve the congestion there by constructing a bypass route on the near
West Side were eventually scuttled.
six miles of the original freeway was located below grade and in a
right-of-way that made a conventional widening prohibitively expensive.
The double-decking added
elevated structures on a single row of piers located just to the
outside of the
lower level but within the existing right-of-way. This allowed
upper level to overhang the
lower level, thus allowing the additional lanes to be
shoehorned into the original right-of-way.
rendering of double-deck freeway
(Rendering by Figg and Muller
Engineers and courtesy of TxDOT)
elevated structures were built using a
then-new type of construction called "segmental winged-T"
bridges. Besides being aesthetically-pleasing, this
method had the major technical benefit of allowing the bridge segments
to be cast off-site and then
trucked in and assembled in-place, thus expediting construction and
minimizing traffic disruption. Segments were lifted onto a special
support truss and joined
with epoxy. Then tensioned cables called tendons located
within ducts inside the segments were tightened to hold the structure
together. It was likened to a suspension bridge but with
cables inside the bridge.
observant motorist driving on the lower levels may notice a difference
in the piers used on each side of the road. The original design was
modified midway through the project to allow for improvements to the bridge
segments that made the casting process easier and reduced costs. This
new design increased the width of the bridge "spines" and, thus,
required a wider pier to support it.
installing a bridge segment on I-35 in 1987
Figg and Muller Engineers and courtesy of TxDOT)
section of the upper level of I-10 near Fredericksburg Rd. was closed
when cracks were discovered in a couple of support piers and
segments. A temporary support, similar to the ones used to support
damaged bridges after
earthquake (which, coincidentally, occurred in the area a few days
later) was installed and the upper level, except for the Fredericksburg
Rd. entrance ramp, was reopened. That entrance ramp, as well
the main upper level section, were eventually reinforced with strategic
steel rods. Other than this, the design has fared well, and
double-decked roads have provided much needed capacity to the downtown
area freeway network. For photos of the double-decked
here. For a
diagram on how
the upper levels were built, click on the image below.
Click on the image to see the
(Source: San Antonio Light)
In 2018, TxDOT announced plans to double-deck 15 miles of I-35
on the northeast side. When completed, this will likely be the longest
section of double-decked freeway in the country and possibly the world.
to 1987, the national speed limit was 55 mph, and all freeways in San
Antonio were posted at 55 mph with the downtown freeways posted at 50.
In 1987, the federal government permitted states to increase the speed
limit to 65 mph on rural Interstates. In
San Antonio, this applied to I-10 West north of Loop 1604 and to the
other Interstates outside Loop 410 with the exception of I-35 North,
which was posted at 55 mph all the way to FM 306 north of
New Braunfels. The national speed limit was completely repealed in
Today, most freeways inside of Loop 410 are posted at
60 or 65 mph. Outside of 410, speed limits are generally 65
North Side and 70 on the South Side. Speed limits jump up to 70
outside of Loop 1604 on the North Side. Loop 410 is 65 mph
of US 90 and 70 mph to the south. Loop 1604 is generally 70
on its freeway segments with some 65 and 55 stretches in Live Oak and
While the City of San Antonio still has an ordinance declaring that the
minimum speed limit on freeways is 10 mph below the posted maximum
speed limit, minimum speed limit signs were removed during the
mid and late
lane truck restriction
the San Antonio City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting trucks
from using the left lane of US
90 (both East and West) inside Loop 410 between 6am and 9pm Monday
through Friday. This was a trial project to determine whether
similar restrictions should be implemented on other area
freeways. A before-and-after study showed an overall 10%
reduction in crashes along the corridor with a 30% reduction in crashes
involving trucks. However, the restriction has not been
to any other freeways within the city of San Antonio.
February 2007, the Texas Transportation Commission extended the
existing left lane truck restriction in place along I-35 in the Austin
area south from San Marcos to just inside Loop 1604. A
continuation of that restriction on I-35 through the city of San
Antonio was subsequently investigated but no action ever taken.
freeways is generally good. However, Interchange Sequence Series
(the signs that show the next three exits), which are used widely in
many urban areas, are only used sporadically
here. Schematic signs before
major interchanges, also widely used in other cities, are conspicuously
absent here, although they are being added to new interchanges more
peculiarity are control cities. On radial
routes, many, but not all, pull-through signs switch the inbound
control city from "San Antonio" to "Downtown San Antonio" at about Loop
410. But on US 90 West and I-37 South, signs inside Loop 410 use "San
I-10 West has several signs inside and outside of Loop 410 reading "San
Antonio/Houston" even though signs approaching Loop 410 read "Downtown
San Antonio". Meanwhile, even when the control city on the radial
"Downtown San Antonio", guide signs on the corresponding Loop 410 ramps
at the same interchange
just show "San Antonio".
freeway that was consistently listed in freeway plans over the
years but was never built was the Bandera Expressway. This
filled what is now an obvious missing link in the system.
Two corridors were proposed over the years for this freeway.
proposed in 1964, would have started on Bandera Rd. outside Loop 410
Bandera to the west south to Guadalupe St. before
turning east, crossing I-35, and following Cesar Chavez to
heading northeast to end at Commerce St. east of downtown (click here
for a map.)
The second route, proposed around 1971, would have run
along Culebra from
I-10 West to Loop 410 (click here
for a map.) Opposition due to the projected displacement
of thousands of West Side residents eventually killed
route for I-10 downtown was proposed several times in the '50s, '60s,
relieve congestion along the original "Downtown Y" expressways of I-10 and I-35. The first
proposal would have routed this bypass down the Navidad Street corridor from
I-10 at Fulton to US 90 near Zarzamora. Subsequent plans
had it running further east, first along or near Brazos Street, then
the railroad right-of-way. This bypass was scrapped with the
Bandera Expressway in the
mid '70s and a new plan to
double-deck I-10 replaced it.
Two small connector freeways branching from US 281 were
also proposed in 1964. One would have connected US 281 with I-35
roughly along St. Mary's St. The other would have upgraded San
between Loop 410 and US 281 to a short connector freeway.
a freeway along Roosevelt Ave., which at the time was US 281, was
briefly proposed in the mid '50s.
information on the history of the freeway system and proposed routes,
Looking at maps and seeing the way it was built, State Highway 16 South
and Spur 422, which branches off of I-35 in southwest
San Antonio, was likely intended to eventually be a freeway. In
the road is officially named the Poteet-Jourdanton Freeway.
Strictly technically-speaking, though, it
should named Poteet-Jourdanton Expressway as
the road is a four lane divided highway with signalized
but has frontage roads along several miles. This
allowed the roadway to be upgraded to a freeway relatively easily by
simply building overpasses for the mainlanes at the major
intersections. Additionally, the interchange at I-35 used to
ramps from I-35 to SP 422 (those ramps were subsequently removed ca.
2010.) When the road was built, most projections saw the
expanding to the south. Instead, San Antonio has grown
and westward. As a result, the relatively lightly-used Spur
remains mostly in its original configuration.
Metropolitan Planning Organization (AAMPO) is an
agency created in accordance with federal law to coordinate and
distribute state and federal transportation funding for the San Antonio
area. This area originally included Bexar County and
parts of neighboring Comal and Guadalupe County. In 2014, it was
expanded to include all of Comal and Guadalupe counties as well as
southern Kendall County around Boerne. AAMPO was previously named
the San Antonio-Bexar County MPO and, prior to that, the San
Antonio-Bexar County Urban Transportation Study (SABCUTS), which was
first established in 1963.
Department started the Freeway Courtesy Patrol in San Antonio in 1968
to assist the large volume of visitors coming to the city for the
patrol would help stranded
motorists by providing gasoline, water,
jump starts, tire changes or air, and assistance in making minor roadside
repairs or arranging for towing for vehicles that could not be repaired.
deemed very successful, the patrol was discontinued after HemisFair due
budgetary issues. A decade later, the program was reinstated with the
added duties of clearing disabled vehicles, minor crashes, and debris from the
roadways, assisting with traffic control at accident
scenes, and placing temporary traffic control devices where needed. Budget
issues again caused the program to be discontinued around 2008.
2018, TxDOT obtained funding to restart the local program once more,
patrol hit the roadways again on August 31, 2020. The Highway Emergency
Response Operation (HERO) program covers about 240 miles of local
freeways with 28 vehicles. The HERO
patrol will provide all the aforementioned services with full coverage
operating weekdays from
5 am to 9 pm and limited service at other times. Assistance is free
and can be requested by calling 210-732-HERO. During its first 18
months in operation, HERO assisted with over 64,000 incidents, or
an average of about one incident every 12 minutes, and provided over
127,000 services to motorists. A Texas Transportation Institute study
in 2021 estimated that the HERO program reduced secondary crashes at
incident scenes by nearly half.
HERO truck at TransGuide
(Photo courtesy of TxDOT)
extensive network of freeways, studies show that San Antonio typically
levels of overall congestion compared to other large cities, although
it has increased substantially in recent years. On average,
freeway and arterial street systems are operating slightly over
capacity. However, most of the area's freeways now have sections that suffer moderate to
severe daily congestion. Expansion work is underway or
for many of these roads.
Rush hours are generally from
6-9 am, and 3-7 pm.
San Antonio was the largest metropolitan area in Texas with no
hazardous cargo routing plan. However, after a series of
accidents near downtown in the mid '90s, a plan was finally drafted
around the turn of the century and was approved by the
Texas Transportation Commission in June 2001.
map below shows the adopted hazmat routing plan. Designated
hazmat routes are marked with the standard "HM" sign such as shown
Bexar County hazardous vehicle routes
hazardous cargo are completely
banned from the red
sections and banned with the exception of
specific local deliveries on the orange
sections. All through hazmat traffic must use the green
(Based on San Antonio Municipal
area gets winter precipitation only a couple of times a year on
average, usually in the form of freezing rain or sleet. Such
precipitation, of course, makes driving very hazardous, especially on the numerous overpasses and flyovers. As a
result, TxDOT and the San Antonio Police Department have formulated a
manage the city's freeway system during such events. The plan
calls for TxDOT to begin de-icing bridges and overpasses using
brine solution, chemical agents, and sand or chat rock when
precipitation begins or is predicted. If conditions become too
plan calls for most of the freeway system to be closed, mostly in areas
with many overpasses or elevated lanes. Traffic is then routed to the access roads until conditions