Colleen Waguespack, president of Northside Neighborhoods for Organized Development, is among thousands of Northsiders familiar with the challenges that come with driving Loop 1604.
Waguespack and more than 100 others gathered at Resurrection Baptist Church on Redland Road on Tuesday to review schematics and drawings that outline a State plan to widen 23 miles of the freeway.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) proposed to expand Loop 1604 to a 10-lane roadway between Bandera Road (Texas Highway 16) and Interstate 35. TxDOT officials said the project aims to improve mobility and decrease traffic congestion across the area. The earliest construction could begin is early 2021.
Waguespack said she looks forward the final outcome of the multi-phase project.
“It’s very much needed. I’ll dread the construction, but it’s very much needed,” Waguespack added. “They should’ve started it five years ago.”
Frontage lanes and entrance and exit ramps would be reconfigured all along the length of Loop 1604 between Bandera Road and I-35. The expansion includes removal of the cloverleaf connectors from the Loop 1604 interchange at Interstate 10, and replacement of the signalized frontage road intersections with continuous traffic flow.
Hernan Rozemberg, public information officer for TxDOT’s San Antonio District office, said many community members are already expressing interest in the project, specifically the revamp to I-10.
Rozemberg said the I-10 segment will be similar in scope to the interchange reconfigurations that TxDOT applied to Loop 1604 and U.S. Highway 281 North, and to Loop 410 and U.S. 281/San Pedro Avenue.
The part of Loop 1604 between I-10 and U.S. 281 is currently the most congested part of what used to be a sparsely traveled farm road decades ago.
That stretch of Loop 1604 supports more than 150,000 vehicles daily. It’s a figure that TxDOT projects will increase to 290,000 vehicles daily by 2045, thanks largely to the population influx that Bexar County expects to see over the next 20-25 years.
The State transportation agency finds that if Loop 1604 is not widened, westbound motorists could spend nearly two hours driving from I-35 to Bandera Road during evening rush hour by 2045. Eastbound motorists driving the same distance could be on the road well over 100 minutes on average by the same year.
“This is a big project. It’s a long time in the making,” Rozemberg said of the planned Loop 1604 expansion, which follows on the heels of other major Northside road projects.
The expansion project will also include improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians. All proposed improvements will take place within the existing rights-of-way.
There also will be an increase in water quality protections because much of Loop 1604 sits over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and runs over or past several creeks and other environmentally sensitive spots.
Authorities expect environmental clearance for the project to take place in early 2020. Rozemberg said it is hard to estimate how long the overall project will take, from start to finish.
The portion of work between Bandera Road to U.S. 281 already has allocated funding to the tune of $650 million. When State and local officials identify funds for the rest of the project, the total cost will come out to $1 billion, according to Rozemberg.
Tuesday’s session was the first of two open houses regarding the Loop 1604 widening project. Several residents either used cards to share comments with TxDOT or wrote ideas on large maps and schematics that were on display.
Mike Andry was one of those residents. He recommended an entrance ramp or additional frontage lanes “to create improved access to De Zavala Road.”
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Other attendees suggested adding an eastbound exit and a westbound entrance at Huebner Road; more frontage lanes between Bandera Road and the Dub Farris Athletic Complex; improving pathways for pedestrians and cyclists between I-10 and Babcock Road; and taller noise barriers between Gold Canyon and Redland Roads.
Another attendee, Chris Deeves, said he understands the need for the massive expansion of Loop 1604.
“What I’d like for them to do is minor changes to traffic signals and what we already have in place,” Deeves said. “I just want to see more consistency.”
TxDOT will hold another open house 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at the Brandeis High School cafeteria, 13011 Kyle Seale Parkway.