Work could begin as soon as 2021 on one of the biggest road projects in San Antonio history, expanding Loop 1604 to 10 lanes at a projected cost of $1 billion.
That’s according to Texas Department of Transportation officials, who say the endeavor will improve mobility across the far North Side for decades to come as population and traffic increase.
“This will open up all the North Side to less congestion,” said District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry.
TxDOT engineers indicate widening 1604 for 23 miles from Texas 16/Bandera Road on the west to Interstate 35 on the east could start within two years.
The nontolled expansion will add two all-purpose lanes and a high-occupancy vehicle one in each direction, more than doubling the current four-lane expressway.
Expect corridor upgrades for pedestrians and bicyclists, too.
Hernan Rozemberg, a spokesman for TxDOT’s San Antonio District, said it’s difficult estimating when construction finishes.
“Once (TxDOT gets) contractors on board, they can offer a schedule and we’ll have that. There’s no doubt it’ll be several years,” Rozemberg added.
He and other representatives guided attendees through an open house explaining the undertaking Sept. 24.
Perry, who sits on the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board, said the project’s benefits outweigh periodic closures, traffic jams and detours.
“I’m looking forward to it. I believe (District 10) is looking forward to it,” Perry said. “There’s always going to be growing pains, but this will be well worth it,” Perry said.
A significant part of the work involves a total revamp of the 1604 interchange at Interstate 10, where the existing cloverleaf links are removed and replaced with multiple-level connections.
Continuous-flow partial roundabouts will supplant existing traffic signals at the road level around the 1604/I-10 interchange.
Construction of the five-level configuration will allow for future growth at I-10/1604, planners said.
Also, frontage lanes plus entrance and exit ramps would be rebuilt along 1604 from I-35 to Bandera Road.
According to supporters, the roadwork is needed because traffic in the region will almost double by 2045.
TxDOT estimates the average daily vehicle count of 150,000 between I-10 and U.S. 281 North could rise to 290,000 over the next 26 years.
For the same time frame, the amount of motorists from 281 to Redland and Redland to I-35 could increase from 131,000 to 257,000 and 112,000 to 225,000, respectively. Meanwhile, 281 is currently undergoing a massive renovation of its own to keep pace with growth.
TxDOT believes if 1604 isn’t widened, the average morning rush-hour commute will increase from 34 to 71 minutes, westbound, on the 23-mile route.
However, upgrades could shorten the same trek about 20-25 minutes.
TxDOT estimates the eastbound evening peak drive time could nearly triple to more than 103 minutes if 1604 is unaltered, but expansion could reduce the same trip to fewer than 30 minutes.
According to TxDOT, no additional rights of way are needed to construct the new lanes or other improvements.
To date, the state has identified $650 million for expanding 1604 between 281 and Bandera Road.
Perry said AAMPO — which disburses federal highway money to local entities — will help the state and other partner agencies secure the other $350 million.
There’s some concern about turning a former farm road into a major highway, the councilman said, but growth dictates the move.
Perry also said more freeway lanes and faster commutes would mean less idling, possibly improving local air quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency in 2018 designated Bexar County in nonattainment of current federal air-quality standards.