Isaac Knott lives in the neighborhood of Stonefield just inside Loop 1604. He relies on Bandera Road to get to his classes at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus. Like thousands of fellow commuters who regularly use Bandera, Knott is all too familiar with traffic congestion up and down the corridor.

Knott is also concerned with safety on the busy road, which has up to seven times more car accidents than the statewide yearly average on similar streets, according to data from TxDOT’s study of Bandera Road. 

Bandera ranks 81st on a list of the state’s most congested roadways, seeing a daily average of more than 36,700 vehicles, a figure that results in a total of 1.4 million hours in traffic delays per year.

“The on-ramp to [Loop] 410 is a big safety concern. People are jutting across the road,” Knott said. “Also, keeping open access to [commercial] developments in Leon Valley is important especially to me.”

Knott and other Bandera Road residents will have to wait a few years for some kind of relief.

Because Bandera is also Texas State Highway 16, the job of finding traffic solutions falls on the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which is working with the cities of San Antonio and Leon Valley to arrive at ideas for mobility improvements.

The State Highway 16 Bandera Road Corridor Plan, launched earlier this year, is the first corridor plan developed under the guidance of the SA Tomorrow comprehensive plan. 

The community planning process, including open houses being held this week, will result in the formation of a multimodal transportation, future land use, economic development, and urban design plan for the road between Loops 1604 and 410.

San Antonio City Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) and Leon Valley Mayor Chris Riley formed a task force in 2018 and formally asked TxDOT to begin a new feasibility study. 

TxDOT staffers and consultants with TxDOT and the City gathered Tuesday night at Brandeis High School for the first of two open houses to explain the Bandera Road study and to get public feedback. About 70 people attended Tuesday’s two-hour meeting. 

Sandoval told the Rivard Report on Tuesday that traffic congestion and safety are the chief worries for many residents in her council district, which covers much of Bandera. The lack of continuous sidewalks and the absence of bicycle lanes, specifically, are troublesome, she added.

“That may have been okay 50 years ago, but not today,” Sandoval said of the sidewalk gaps and dearth of bike lanes.

Halff Associates, a Dallas-based consulting firm, is helping TxDOT with assessing conditions on Bandera. 

Preliminary data collection efforts have concentrated on Bluetooth data, a vendor-provided Bluetooth dataset called “StreetLight,” and data gleaned from the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Travel Demand Model

TxDOT and the consultants also surveyed nearly 900 people over a four-month period earlier in 2019.

David Garza with Ximenes and Associates (right) sees one Bandera Road-area resident point out a traffic trouble spot in a meeting at Brandeis High School. Ximenes and Associates is leading the public engagement process for the State Highway 16 Bandera Road Corridor Plan.

Chad Gardiner, project manager for Halff Associates, said in a presentation that 71 percent of survey respondents use Bandera for area shopping and dining opportunities, and another 54 percent use the road to get to work or school. 

Gardiner said most respondents said they want to see a reduction in traffic, an increase in safety, and “to add sidewalks and improve pedestrian facilities.”

Chris Riley told the Rivard Report that, aside from traffic congestion and safety being the main concerns among residents and commuters, locals want amenities to make Bandera more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

San Antonio Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) agreed. His district covers the northern half of the Bandera Road area.

Pelaez told the Rivard Report on Tuesday that road safety is worrisome to him and many of his constituents. 

He also is concerned about how emergency first responders try to navigate busier parts of the Bandera area, particularly during rush hour. The councilman said he had to call EMS for a family member a couple of times in the past year. Each time Pelaez heard from the paramedics about traffic congestion.

“They’ll tell us we’re lucky we called late in the evening as opposed to 5 or 6 o’clock because for [paramedics], it’s a life or death situation being stuck in traffic. That’s scary,” Pelaez recalled of those conversations.

Jay Louden, an architect with the Work5hop, the local firm aiding San Antonio as part of the corridor plan, said better linking neighborhoods along Bandera and making the road more multimodal is critical.

“Neighborhoods need connections to Bandera Road that are safe and pleasant with sidewalks, crosswalks, trees, and bike lanes,” he added.

Sandoval said San Antonio’s Bandera corridor plan, which will be finalized later in 2020, will help the City to determine how best to guide future land use, transportation options, and economic development in San Antonio’s portions of the road.

“It’s all about what you want to see on the corridor,” Sandoval added. “We don’t want it to be a thoroughfare, we want it to be a destination.”

Leon Valley, for its part, has been improving sidewalks, green spaces, and trails within its city limits. Riley said this kind of connectivity for her constituents is key, but so is a vibrant Bandera Road – one without more overpasses.

The flyover interchange that TxDOT built between Bandera and 410 a few years ago has presented some challenges for commuters and area businesses, Riley said. But “[the city] would get a big hit” if another elevated roadway is developed on Bandera.

Some attendees at Tuesday’s meeting put sticky notes on a map of the project site, saying they do not want another flyover road on Bandera.

“As a small community of 11,000 people in 3.5 square miles, we depend very heavily on our sales tax to fund our police, fire, streets, libraries and parks, so that’s a concern,” Riley added.

TxDOT expects to see design schematics of the preferred road solutions by fall of 2022. People can find out more about TxDOT’s study at this link. The deadline for this round of public comment is Dec. 31.

The next open house will be held Wednesday, 5-7 p.m. at Leon Valley Community and Conference Center, 6427 Evers Rd.

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.