(An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the expected timing of the first phase of the Loop 1604 expansion.)
The Texas Department of Transportation will host two open houses this week to show off its proposed massive expansion of Loop 1604 from Bandera Road (Texas 16) to Interstate 35.
TxDOT wants to build nearly 28 miles of new lanes, turning a four-lane expressway into a 10-lane behemoth with HOV lanes, accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians, and the replacement of an outdated cloverleaf-style intersection at Interstate 10 with “modernized” direct or fly-over connectors, like those being constructed at 1604 and U.S. 281.
None of the new lanes will be tolled.
The first meeting is set for Tuesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Redland Oaks Community Church, 16875 Jones Maltsberger Road. The second will be Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Brandeis High School, 13011 Kyle Seale Parkway in northwest Bexar County.
Both will have the same information, and the public is free to come and go, examine maps and renderings, and informally ask questions of TxDOT staff. Written comments about the plans are due no later than Oct. 10 at the TxDOT San Antonio district office, 4615 N.W. Loop 410, San Antonio, 78229-0928.
On ExpressNews.com: Expansion of I-35 likely to include elevated lanes
The project is expected to be divided into at least two phases, with an already-funded first section from Bandera to Redland starting late next year. Work on the remaining section, from Redland to I-35, has yet to be assigned a start date, but will probably begin in 2023 and go well into 2024, according to the definitive highway blog for this region, Brian Purcell’s Texas Highwayman.
For those new to the area, Loop 1604’s chain restaurants and megachurches were prairie land 35 to 40 years ago beside a modest two-lane, farm to market road that would, on occasion, contain actual farmers. Phenomenal suburban growth has transformed the 1604 corridor. Purcell reported that “13 of the top 20 locations for traffic growth between 1990 and 2016 were along 1604 North, with the location just north of Bandera showing growth of almost 1000%.”
As scores of urban planners have lamented similar suburban highway loops in Houston, Austin and Dallas, no amount of widening Loop 1604 could keep up with the explosive growth of vehicle traffic.
On ExpressNews.com: Unusual intersection at Loop 1604 and Bandera opens
A report by the Texas Transportation Institute attributes some of this phenomenon to “latent demand” — the notion that making roads wider simply attracts more people to use them. Houston’s Katy Freeway is often held up as the prime example, having gone from four to eight to (in some places) 16 lanes, only to see the average commute times increase.
Mass transit is largely nonexistent on the outer freeway loops surrounding Texas’ four largest cities, and a now-dated report from 2012 by the American Community Survey estimated that 76 percent of workers in Central Texas drove alone to work each day. There’s little to suggest those numbers have declined.
Bruce Selcraig is a staff writer in the San Antonio and Bexar County area.