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San Antonio Area Freeway System
US Highway 281 North
(Walter McAllister Freeway)

This page last updated February 5, 2024

US 281N highlight map
US 281N highlight map

This page covers US 281 north of downtown San Antonio from the I‑35 interchange to the Comal county line. US 281 continues south of downtown concurrent (multiplexed) with I‑37.

Length: 21 miles


On this page:

Overview Roadway
Lanes Access
Exits Speed
Special features
and notes


This freeway is the spine for San Antonio's rapidly-growing North-Central area. The route serves The Pearl, Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Zoo, Trinity University, the University of the Incarnate Word, Alamo Stadium, Olmos Basin Park, The Quarry and Lincoln Heights area, San Antonio International Airport, and the Stone Oak area, as well as the suburban cities of Alamo Heights, Olmos Park, Hollywood Park, and Hill Country Village.

Traveling outbound from downtown, 281 crosses the booming lower Broadway corridor before snaking around the southern edge of the Brackenridge Golf Course. It then continues north shoehorned between the San Antonio Zoo and Alamo Stadium before crossing the Olmos Dam and sailing over the wooded Olmos Basin Park and flood control basin. North of Basse, the landscape becomes increasingly suburban in character, and dense commercial development is achieved near San Antonio International Airport at Loop 410 all the way to 1604 with a short break at the end of an airport runway between Rhapsody and Nakoma. North of 1604, the route passes through the rapidly developing suburban areas of northern Bexar County until the freeway ends at the Comal county line.

McAllister Fwy./San Pedro Ave.
The section of US 281 from I‑35 to the interchange at San Pedro Ave. is named the Walter McAllister Freeway, named for the former mayor of San Antonio who helped shepard the project. From there north to Loop 1604, the route assumes the name San Pedro Ave. as the freeway subsumed the existing roadway there, and most businesses along that stretch still list "San Pedro" as their address. North of Loop 1604, "US 281 N" is used in most addresses.


This section of freeway is occasionally mistakenly referred to as I‑37. While the freeway that is I‑37 and US 281 along the eastern edge of downtown seamlessly crosses I‑35 and continues north, I‑37 actually ends at I‑35 leaving only US 281 to continue north from there.

Roadway details

US 281N lanes map
  • 8 lanes between I‑35 and St. Mary's St.
  • 6 lanes between St. Mary's St. and Hildebrand Ave.
  • 8 lanes between Hildebrand Ave. and Donella Dr. with a short 6 lane section through the Loop 410 interchange
  • 6 lanes between Donella Dr. and Sonterra Blvd.
  • 9 lanes (5 northbound, 4 southbound) between Sonterra Blvd. and Encino Rio
  • 7 lanes (4 northbound, 3 southbound) between Encino Rio and Evans Rd.
  • 4 lanes between Stone Oak Pkwy./TPC Pkwy. and north end of freeway

  • 2 HOV lanes (one each direction) between Evans Rd. and Borgfeld Dr.
US 281N lanes map
US 281N access roads map
  • No continuous access roads from I‑35 to Loop 410 with the exception of short sections of access road at the following locations:
    • Both directions between St. Mary's St. and Stadium Dr.
    • Southbound from Loop 410 to Sunset Rd.
    • Northbound from Parkridge St. to Loop 410
  • Continuous access roads along the remainder of route except through San Pedro Ave. interchange.
US 281N access roads map

Click here for a list of US 281 North exits.
US 281N speed limit map
  • 60 mph between I‑35 and Hildebrand Ave.
  • 65 mph between Hildebrand Ave. and north end of freeway
US 281N speed limit map
US 281N special features map
  • TransGuide coverage along entire route
  • Left exits at the following locations:
    • Southbound to northbound I‑35
    • Northbound to Loop 1604
  • VIA Metropolitan Transit Stone Oak Park & Ride located at Stone Oak Pkwy.
  • Elevated "T-ramp" from HOV lane to/from Stone Oak Park & Ride
  • Award-winning winding and scenic route from I‑35 to Basse Rd.
  • Landing lights for a runway at San Antonio International Airport cross over the freeway on a truss just south of Nakoma Dr.
US 281N special features map
US 281N traffic map

Generally heavy along entire route. Traffic volumes surprisingly are down appreciably along most of the corridor over the past decade.

Recurring morning peak period congestion occurs southbound from Loop 1604 to Wurzbach Pkwy. Recurring afternoon peak period congestion occurs northbound from downtown to Hildebrand Ave., northbound from Loop 410 to Nakoma Dr., and southbound from Loop 410 to Hildebrand Ave.

Traffic volume legend
US 281N traffic map
LOCATION 2002 2012 2017 2019 2021 2022 '12-'22
N of I‑35         130,102 129,380 N/A
S of Hildebrand Ave.         133,592 138,119 N/A
N of Hildebrand Ave. 135,000 155,000 169,425 169,830 136,247 139,941 -9.72%
N of Basse Rd. 116,220 136,000 139,741 150,024 119,366 120,476 -11.41%
S of Sunset Rd. 121,230 146,000 151,180 150,523 119,065 121,661 -16.67%
S of Loop 410 83,000 87,000 90,915 93,899 83,882 98,867 +13.64%
N of Loop 410 96,000 84,000 98,735 100,180 75,069 85,176 +1.40%
N of Isom Rd. 103,000 149,000 153,221 157,461     N/A
S of Nakoma Rd. 158,000 189,000 190,478 194,771 116,344 176,296 -6.72%
S of Brookhollow Dr. 124,000 146,000 163,542 169,159 173,472 155,645 +6.61%
S of Loop 1604 111,000 114,000 102,250 106,685 101,021 158,128 +38.71%
S of Sonterra Blvd. 87,000 110,000 97,657 87,000     N/A
S of Redland Rd. (ML only)   89,000 100,732 99,587 89,075 92,059 +3.44%

(NOTE: In 2021, TxDOT changed the location of several traffic counting stations. New stations will show no history prior to 2021, and discontinued stations will show no history for 2021 or thereafter.)


Media gallery

Click here for historical photos of this freeway.

Click here for video of this freeway.

Construction projects

There are currently no major construction projects in this corridor.

Future plans

In 2018, TxDOT announced plans to reconstruct the Jones-Maltsberger and Basse interchanges near the Alamo Quarry Market. A Diverging Diamond Interchange is proposed at Jones-Maltsberger. At Basse, the existing cloverleaf ramps would be removed, and a new southbound exit ramp and northbound entrance ramp added. These projects are currently not projected to start until after 2030.

A project to make several operational improvements in the Loop 410/US 281/San Pedro area will add a collector-distributor road along southbound US 281 between Nakoma and San Pedro and will close the northbound entrance ramp from Jones-Maltsberger north of the airport. More details on that project are here.

With the first HOV lanes now in operation north of Loop 1604, planners are working on long-term plans to extend those HOV lanes — along with other operational improvements — along US 281 to downtown. However, the geometry and right-of-way constraints along much of this route will complicate that planning.

Long-range plans are on the books to upgrade US 281 to a full freeway all the way to FM 306 at the Comal/Blanco county line. The first step toward that eventual plan upgraded 281 from a two-lane road to a four-lane divided highway from the Guadalupe River to FM 306; work on that project was completed in early 2015. Advanced planning is underway for the next expansion that will upgrade US 281 to a full freeway from the Bexar/Comal county line to SH 46. More details on that project are here.


Originally known during planning as the "North Expressway", US 281 from I‑35 to San Pedro Ave. is named for Walter McAllister, San Antonio's mayor when the freeway was proposed and one of the main leaders in getting it built.

The section north of Sandau Rd. was originally built as a two-lane road around 1934 as an extension of San Pedro Ave. to be used as the route for US 281 per the Arneson Plan to improve state highways in Bexar County. Prior to then, US 281 and its predecessors SH 66 and SH 108 ran along Nacogdoches, Wetmore, and Bulverde roads.

This corridor has been the subject of major controversy twice in its history. Its initial construction was one of the most controversial freeway projects in US history, requiring a literal act of Congress in order to get built. Plans in the first two decades of this century to extend the freeway north of Loop 1604 with toll lanes were equally contentious.

The US 281 corridor has been home to not one, but two freeway intersections that lacked full directional interchanges. Prior to 2008, traffic connecting between Loop 410 and US 281 had to exit and navigate overburdened access roads and/or surface streets to get from one freeway to the other. The lack of an interchange there was a result of the drawn-out battle over the original construction of the McAllister Freeway in the '60s and '70s. A blockbuster project starting in 2004 finally built the multi-level interchange that's there today, with the various flyovers opening in a one-year period between June 2007 and June 2008.

Further north at Loop 1604, a similar situation played-out. Prior to November 2012, all traffic connecting between US 281 and Loop 1604 was required to exit onto the access roads and traverse signalized intersections. The lack of an interchange here was more due to a lack of need until the late '90s, followed by a lack of funding in the early 2000s. However, the first flyovers in today's five-level interchange opened in November 2012 and provided direct connections from US 281 northbound to both directions of Loop 1604. The connectors from Loop 1604 to southbound US 281 opened in late December 2012. The remaining flyovers were constructed as part of the project to extend the US 281 freeway northward, with the connectors from southbound US 281 to both directions of Loop 1604 opening in August 2020, and the last two connectors opening in May 2021.

US 281N history map
US 281N history map
Map of alignments studied for North Expressway presented in 1960

Map of alignments studied for North Expressway presented in 1960
(Source: San Antonio North Expressway Study, 1971)

Artist's rendering of planned US 281 near Alamo Stadium ca. 1971

Artist's rendering of planned US 281 near Alamo Stadium ca. 1971
Note the proposed viaduct with Roman arches near the Sunken Garden Theater.
(Photo courtesy of TxDOT)

Construction on US 281 at Hildebrand Ave. looking south ca. 1977

Construction on US 281 at Hildebrand Ave. looking south ca. 1977
(Photo courtesy of TxDOT)

More historical photos of US 281 North are available here.