July 23, 2019 brooke

Massive Loop 1604 expansion project could get green light next month

Linda Vela is the planning and public involvement program manager for the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. (SBG photo)

SAN ANTONIO – The push to make Loop 1604 a less headache-inducing drive from Bandera Road to I-35 is attracting statewide attention. For frustrated San Antonio motorists, relief could be imminent.

Local officials are hopeful the Texas Transportation Commission green lights the massive $880 million, 10-lane expansion project at it’s Aug. 29 meeting. So far, $388 million has been allocated for what would be a 22-mile makeover.

“I would say we’re all cautiously optimistic,” says Linda Vela, the planning and public involvement program manager of the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“It’s one of the top most congested corridors in our state. Traffic on Loop 1604 has grown like 93 percent since the year 2000.”

But it’s far from the only congested corridor in the state, and that’s part of the problem. San Antonio is competing with other metro and rural areas for funding.

“It’s still a competition and we have bad traffic, but so does Austin, so does Houston. so does Dallas,” Vela says. “We’re basically competing for funding against all of those different interests.”

All four major Texas cities have rush hour problems, but San Antonio motorists maintain none are worse than frequently gridlocked 1604.

“It’s just a disaster,” says Salvador Butcher, a San Antonio resident. “There’s people merging on, and people merging off. No one yields, so it’s a challenge every day.”

The 1604/I-10 connection may be the worst part of the highway.

(SBG photo)

“Those cloverleaf designs were really meant for more rural traffic,” Vela says. “The community has just grown up around it. It’s really created a problem in terms of traffic flow in those areas.”

If the commission approves the project, the next step would be a start date. A priority system will determine whether construction on the multi-year project begins in 2020, or later in the decade.

Some wonder if even 10 lanes will be enough to handle all of the growth the city is expecting.

“If you look at where all of our growth is happening, it’s outside of Loop 1604 and to the far west. That tells us the congestion is only going to increase as we move forward.”

With growth will come more cars.

“We’re expecting another 1.1 million people. That’s a lot more vehicles. When someone moves here, they might come with two or three cars,” she says.

“The problem is we’re building projects today that were needed 10 years ago,” Vela says.

The Texas Transportation Commission will consider the Loop 1604 request as part of its Unified Transportation Plan late next month.

“Something needs to be done,” Butcher says. “It seems like from what I can tell, that there’s a lot of band-aids being put on a variety of different traffic projects that we’re just gonna outgrow sooner or later.”

Vela commiserates with area motorists who anxiously await a solution.

“We live in the community,” Vela says of her colleagues who are trying to push the plan through, including Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff. “We’re stuck in the traffic too.”

Maps of the Loop 1604 project.

Link for Loop 1604 travel times.

Article originally published by News 4 SA – Jim Lefko