San Antonio drivers can now cruise smoothly from Loop 1604 onto the northbound main lanes of U.S. Highway 281, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
Following a series of weather-related delays, both the eastbound and westbound Loop 1604 flyover ramps to northbound 281 opened Thursday. The ramps had been scheduled to open overnight Monday but thunderstorms in the area caused a postponement, said Jennifer Serold, a TxDOT-San Antonio public information officer, on Tuesday.
Previously, motorists on either eastbound or westbound Loop 1604 had to exit, go through traffic lights, and then transition onto an often-congested access road to get onto northbound U.S. Highway 281. Flyovers from southbound 281 to 1604 opened in August.
The second set of flyovers were originally set to open in March, but the winter storm in mid-February caused delays, Serold said.
Other issues the project’s contractor, Webber Construction, has faced included getting materials needed to complete construction, Serold said. A construction materials shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic has continued into 2021, which pushed the Associated General Contractors of America to issue a Construction Inflation Alert in April.
Construction crews began working on the expansion of 281 in far North San Antonio in July 2017. The multiyear, two-phase project has transformed the highway from a four-lane divided highway with numerous traffic lights into a six-lane expressway, with three lanes in each direction.
When the project is complete in early 2023, two lanes will be general-purpose lanes and one lane in each direction will be for high occupancy vehicles (HOV) of two people or more, including VIA Metropolitan Transit buses. Frontage roads for the expressway will include bicycle lanes.
Phase one extends from Loop 1604 north to Stone Oak Parkway and includes the construction of the flyovers connecting 1604 and 281 north of the loop. Phase two, which broke ground in March 2019, stretches from Stone Oak Parkway to Borgfeld Drive at the Comal County line.
Earlier this month, TxDOT opened the underpass at Stone Oak Parkway/TPC Parkway to through traffic in both directions after being closed for months.
Phase one is on schedule for completion in fall 2021, Serold said. Prior to the pandemic, construction was ahead of schedule and the completion of phase one was slated for completion in late 2020. Phase two is on track for completion by early 2023, Serold said.
Both phases are currently within budget, she said.
The phase one segment will cost about $228 million and phase two $304 million, according to the most recent numbers provided by TxDOT. Along with other TxDOT funding sources, the expansion project is being largely funded through Propositions 1 and 7, statewide infrastructure measures approved by voters in 2014 and 2015.
The Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization originally planned to make the new 281 a toll road but met resistance from residents and specifically the group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF). Eventually, funding through the state propositions allowed the project to proceed as a toll-free road.
Residents can stay up to date on upcoming 281 lane closures and other construction here.