Long-awaited U.S. 281 expansion breaks ground

8-mile stretch of highway to increase in size, will be toll-free

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter, David Ibanez - Web - Managing Editor

SAN ANTONIO - State and local officials broke ground on an expansion point for "the most congested chokepoint in San Antonio."

The long-awaited U.S. Highway 281 expansion project for an 8-mile stretch north or Loop 1604 will increase the highway to 12 lanes, connect high occupancy vehicle lanes to the still under-construction VIA Park and Ride at Stone Oak Parkway, finish off the direct connectors to Loop 1604 and add in overpasses at intersections. 

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The work will be done in two phases, from Loop 1604 to Stone Oak Parkway and from Stone Oak Parkway to Borgfeld Drive near the county line.

Construction on Phase 1 will start in May.

"This has been a long time in coming," Gov. Greg Abbott said during the groundbreaking ceremony.

In a rapidly growing city and county, the U.S. 281 corridor is not known for its free-flowing traffic.

"You are seeing a continued growth out that way," Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. "The good thing today, we're at least getting a little bit of balance that we haven't had before."

Altogether, the Texas Department of Transportation believes the improvements will reduce motorist delays by 660,000 hours every year.

Although toll lanes were part of the deal at one point, this is now a toll-free project. Officials credit a 2015 constitutional amendment that allowed more funding streams for the more than half-billion dollar project.

"It took us 14 years, but we got it turned around," District 122 State Rep. Lyle Larson said. "It's a good day for everyone on the North Side."

Phase 1 is expected to be completed in late 2020. Phase 2 is estimated to begin in 2019 and finish up in 2022.

For details on the project, check out TXDOT's project page at http://www.411on281.com.

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