ARMA: Highway 281 Super Street is working

Commuters saving valuable time

By Tim Gerber - Reporter/Anchor

SAN ANTONIO - It's been more than a year since construction of the first "super street" in Texas was completed on the North side of San Antonio.

The short-term fix promised to bring some relief to drivers on Highway 281 North of Loop 1604.

A traffic study comparing the congestion before and after the construction of the super street reveals it is working but that doesn't mean drivers believe it is.

"I haven't seen the difference coming home," commuter Wendy Howk said. "My husband takes it coming home and it still seems to back up quite a bit."

Howk said initially it seemed the super street did help reduce her husband's commute, but the time savings has virtually disappeared. She said the new traffic pattern is mostly a nuisance for her.

"The traffic moves but coming from these neighborhoods where you have to wait and wait for the lights it can be annoying sometimes," Howk said.

While it hasn't solved the gridlock problem, the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority said the super street is working.

"It's a great success story," said Leroy Alloway, Director, Community Development for the RMA. "For a $7 million dollar investment, to be able to say we've actually had police officers ticketing people for speeding on 281 is something I don't think anyone in our community ever thought they'd hear."

Alloway said a traffic study shows the super street is saving drivers time.

In the evening, they are saving about 6 minutes and have increased their average speed by about 10 miles per hour.

Before the super street, it took an average of 19.2 minutes to travel Northbound on 281 from Loop 1604 to Bulverde Road at an average speed of 19 mph.  Alloway said it now takes 12.7 minutes with an average speed of 29 mph.

Morning commuters are saving an average of 4 minutes and have increased their speed by four miles per hour.

Before the super street it took an average of 23.3 minutes to go Southbound on 281 from Bulverde Road to Loop 1604 at an average speed of 16 miles per hour.  Now it takes 18.9 minutes with an average speed of 20 mph.

"That's still not a huge savings but when you consider in stop and go traffic, gaining 4 mph is truly significant," Alloway said.

Alloway said the super street has been so successful, it's actually attracting more traffic which is causing commute times to slow down a bit. Engineers were expecting to see a 3 percent increase in traffic instead it's closer to 10 percent.

"Traffic isn't as bad as people might remember it being back in 2008 or 2009 and so now they're trying 281 again," Alloway said. "People who were diverting off 281, using neighborhood streets and side streets, are now coming back to the corridor, and so that's also helping to add to the delay out there."

Alloway said engineers are still tweaking the traffic lights to get them synchronized which should help keep the flow moving.  But he said the super street is only a temporary fix to a long term problem.

"It's a great interim approach, a way to manage our traffic until we can actually build some new capacity," Alloway said.

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