June 20, 2007
An interchange? What a concept!

Back in the 80s when I was a student at Trinity, I remember thinking how quaint (and more than occasionally frustrating) it was that there was no direct interchange between US 281 and Loop 410. I'm pleased and slightly amazed to read that after all these years, that's finally being corrected.

Nearly half a century ago, a feverish battle began to decide the route of the North Expressway, the part of U.S. 281 north of downtown that's now called McAllister Freeway.

The feud lasted from 1960 to 1974, and mostly pitted businessmen against environmentalists over whether the road could slice through parklands. The skirmishes spawned two referendums, several lawsuits, a three-year halt in construction and a new federal law.

Buildings sprouted on land needed for the highway and pushed the cost for a Loop 410 interchange beyond reach for the next three decades.

"That's amazing," said Roger Conrad, 50. "I've driven all over the country and I've never seen anything like that."

In 2005, the Texas Department of Transportation used bond funds to squeeze what would have been a 10-year project to 31/2 years to build a four-level interchange. Work is now 67 percent complete, and TxDOT opened the first ramp at 3 p.m. Monday.

The ramp, from southbound 281 to westbound 410, stretches almost a mile, rising to rooftops of the surrounding skyline. The lane's chalk-white concrete glares in the sun before dumping drivers just under the McCullough Avenue bridge.

The next ramp, eastbound 410 to southbound 281, is expected to open by August, officials said. The north to east and west to north ramps should open by January, and the rest in late 2008.

That interchange, which was really an intersection of two service roads at a traffic light, could get pretty backed up 20 years ago. I can only imagine how bad it must be today. This flyover ramp doesn't sound like the prettiest thing on the planet, but I'll bet everyone who uses it thinks it's beautiful.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 20, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

The construction has been a nightmare for a long time - it's good to see it finishing, but getting there has been a nightmare. 410 is horrific in that area, and backs up for miles.

But you're right about the skyline - you probably wouldn't even recognize it. I'm consistently worried that a low-flying plane will hit one ;)

Posted by: Buhallin on June 20, 2007 9:32 AM

That part of San Antonio has always been an odd one for commuting. I recall when my mom lived in north San Antonio and I would come in from the east to visit. I found the best way to get past the 281/410 intersection was--of all things--to cut through the airport on a back route. I can't imagine having an alternate route through Intercontinental as preferable to staying on the highway, but it was definitely the case there.

Posted by: Iain on June 20, 2007 11:07 AM