Stuck in 281 NB traffic this week? This weekend could be worse

Crews made a change in northbound traffic lanes this week

If you travel on Highway 281 north, you've probably noticed an increase in traffic as you get closer to Loop 1604. It's been especially noticeable during the evening commutes.

Earlier this week, crews made a change in the northbound traffic lanes, which diverted traffic off the main lanes and onto the frontage road for about a mile outside Loop 1604. It's part of the ongoing construction of Highway 281.

The change led to a big backup during the evening rush hour commutes this week as the posted speed limit decreased to 45 mph and the road went from three to two lanes in the area.

On Thursday, Texas Department of Transportation San Antonio apologized on Twitter, saying, "We're looking at ways to remedy the rush hour congestion."

On Friday, TxDOT San Antonio announced crews will be adding a third lane in the traffic switch area, but it means there will be road closures to accomplish that.

There will be alternating lane closures between Sonterra Road and Encino Rio until 3 p.m. Friday and then from 9 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. Monday.

"The goal is to have three lanes open by Mon. AM rush hour," TxDOT San Antonio posted on Twitter.

Even with an additional third lane, don't expect the commute outside Loop 1604 to be a breeze.

"It's not going to be a miracle cure. Nothing is going to be a miracle cure right now. We're asking people to have patience," said Hernan Rozemberg, public information officer for TxDOT SA.

Traffic will continue to be diverted off the main lanes from Sonterra Boulevard to Encino Rio for some time while crews work on the main lanes. That means the speed limit can't be higher than 45 mph, per state law.

"We're not sugarcoating the situation. It's not pretty out there. We drive it, too," Rozemberg said.

It's the price drivers must pay to eventually get relief on a stretch that is considered the most congested highway in San Antonio.

The two-phase project will widen U.S. 281 to 12 lanes between Loop 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway and 10 lanes from a little north of Stone Oak Parkway up to Borgfeld Road.

The first phase is scheduled to finish in March 2021, while the second phase should begin next year and finish up in the spring of 2023.

There will also be bicycle lanes and pedestrian crossings on the frontage roads.

The remaining direct connectors between Loop 1604 and Highway 281 are under construction and are expected to be ready for use in 2021.

About the Authors: