State and local leaders broke ground on the Loop 1604 North expansion project Monday, marking the formal start of construction efforts to alleviate congestion on San Antonio’s outer loop.

The project is critical to San Antonio and the state of Texas, said state Transportation Commission Chairman Bruce Bugg, as growth continues over the next three decades. By 2050, San Antonio is on track to grow from 2.6 million residents to 4.6 million residents, he said. 

“This is why this project that we’re celebrating today is so necessary,” Bugg said.

Once fully complete, the project is expected to relieve congestion and improve traffic flow, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). It will also increase capacity with more lanes, including high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, and create a fully directional five-level interchange at Interstate 10 and Loop 1604.

This project is part of TxDOT’s “historic” $7.2 billion plan for upcoming and ongoing road projects, Bugg said, “to take care of our future growth in the San Antonio area.”

Donning construction hats and orange vests, state Sens. Donna Campbell, José Menéndez, and Roland Gutierrez stood next to Bugg, Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Chairman Kevin Webb, Precinct 3 Commissioner Trish DeBerry, and District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda as the group scooped sand with golden shovels.

While the groundbreaking marks the project’s official start, the $1 billion project kicked off in May. The loop’s expansion is a part of the Texas Clear Lanes project, a statewide traffic congestion relief initiative launched by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2015.

The full scope of the project consists of 23 miles of road improvements broken up into five construction segments along 1604, stretching from State Highway 16 at Bandera Road to I-35. Construction on the first segment, which consists of 5 miles of improvements from Bandera Road to I-10, began in May and is expected to be completed in 2024.

The cost of construction for the first segment is estimated at $148 million, according to a TxDOT press release. The entire expansion project is expected to be completed by 2027. 

Funding is in place for the first three segments of construction, said Jonathan Bean, TxDot deputy district engineer for the San Antonio district. Funding for the project includes state money allocated from the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization by the Texas Transportation Commission. Construction on segments two and three is also expected to start this year. Funding for segments four and five still needs to be secured, Bean added.

The project will expand Loop 1604 from a four-lane expressway to a 10-lane expressway, including an HOV lane in each direction, and will remove the cloverleaf connections and replace them with connected interchanges. It will also convert the I-10 and Loop 1604 frontage road intersections into a partial roundabout to allow continuous traffic flow. The project will upgrade Blanco Road and Loop 1604 to a diverging diamond intersection, and will add improvements to better accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians.

Havrda said the expansion of Loop 1604 is also critical to San Antonio for the safety of its drivers. 

“I traversed 1604 when it was only two lanes — one lane in each direction — and it was called the death loop for a reason, because it was highly unsafe,” she said. “So the fact that we have expanded to the lanes that we have today, and now we’re looking at another opportunity to expand; this is not just about capacity, it’s not just about efficiency — it is about safety.”

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...