US 281 is a new highway constructed from the downtown sector of San Antonio to the San Antonio International Airport and provides freeway access to fastest growing part of region.
Project Type:Connector Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:147,000 Length (mi):8.00
Economic Distress:1.43 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):1247 Population Growth Rate (%):1.90
Employment Growth Rate (%):1.91 Market Size:636,265 Airport Travel Distance:17.6167 Topography:15
Region:Southwest State:TX County:County
City:San Antonio Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:San Antonio
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Highway GIS Lat/Long:29.527390 / -98.483360
Initial Study Date:1969 Post Constr. Study Date:2006
Constr. Start Date:1970 Constr. End Date:1978
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 1978 Planned Cost (YOE $):11,300,000
Actual Cost (YOE $):40,400,000 Actual Cost (curr $):176,434,913
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||299.73||249.93||549.66|
|Output (in $M's)||783.68||653.47||1437.15|
The McAllister Freeway in San Antonio is an 8 mile-long freeway built between 1969 and 1978. It is part of US 281, which runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. The McAllister Freeway is a new alignment that replaced surface streets connecting downtown San Antonio at Interstate 35 to a point just north of Interstate 410 near the San Antonio International Airport. The highway passes through sensitive environmental areas, limiting its development impact in large sections of the corridor. Much of the economic impact has been to support the tourism trade in downtown and the residential growth that has occurred north of the city over the past three decades. It is estimated that the highway is critical to over 10,000 jobs within the San Antonio region.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
The eight mile section of US 281 that is the focus of this case study connects downtown San Antonio and Interstate 35 to Interstate 410 (Loop 410) and the San Antonio International Airport. The highway was expanded north to state Highway 1604 (Loop 1604) between 1987 and 1989. I-410 and Loop 1604 both form ring roads around the City. San Antonio is served by a well-developed roadway system providing national and international connections. Interstate 35 runs south to Laredo and north through Dallas, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, and Minneapolis. I-10 runs west to Phoenix and Los Angeles. Interstate 37 leads south to Corpus Christi.
US 281 is the major freeway connecting the airport to downtown. The airport served over 8 million passengers in 2007. This included many tourists and conventioneers headed to the downtown area, the heart of the city's tourist district. San Antonio is served by Amtrak and has its own bus and streetcar system as well as freight rail.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
San Antonio, with a population of 1,328,984 (2007 estimate), is the second largest city in Texas and the seventh largest in the United States. It is the county seat of Bexar County, and its population comprised 85% of the county's population in 2007. Employment in the city totaled approximately 735,000 in 2002. Four major industries anchor the economy of the region, including biomedical/health care (the largest sector, contributing $11.9 billion to the economy in 2003), government (lead by the military, with four local bases and employing over 89,000), financial services, and tourism. Over 20 million tourists and conventioneers annually visit the Alamo, the River Walk, Six Flags, Sea World and the city's many golf courses, providing a $10.5 billion economic impact to the city (2006).
The US 281 study corridor provides access to Trinity University, the University of the Incarnate World, Brackenridge Park, Brackenridge Golf Course, the San Antonio Zoo, Alamo Stadium, and the airport, all of which existed prior to construction of the highway. The highway passes in close proximity to Olmos Park, a community which fought the highway and which does not have an interchange connecting it to the highway. Other communities in close proximity to the highway include Alamo Heights, Hollywood Park and Hill Country Village. At the time the highway was constructed, the area north of Interstate 410 was primarily undeveloped farmland. Considerable development has occurred in this area since the highway was built.
US 281 was constructed to provide freeway access to the northern edges of San Antonio, and to the San Antonio International Airport. The initial idea for a north-central freeway from downtown San Antonio to the northern suburbs surfaced in the 1950's. The south side of downtown San Antonio housed rail yards and stock yards, so wealthier residents seeking refuge from the noise and stench of the yards migrated north. City and state officials realized that the existing system of surface streets could not handle the traffic that would result from the new development. In the 1960's, the project was estimated to cost $11.3 million; the final construction cost reached $40.4 million.
By 1960, several alternative routes were proposed and studied, but all were dismissed, one because it did not provide access to San Antonio International Airport, and two others because of land acquisition costs. Planners settled on a route that passed through a corner of Brackenridge Park, skirted the City of Olmos Hills, and crossed the Olmos flood control basin. The route was controversial, as many conservationists felt it would have negative impacts on parkland and natural areas. These opponents invoked the Yarborough Rule, which prohibits the use of federal funds for transportation projects that would take parkland.
While legal battles raged around the conservation issues, work began on the undisputed northern and southern parts of the freeway in 1970. However, court rulings in the early 1970's prohibited the use of federal funds for the disputed section of the highway, and it appeared the highway would not be completed. The Texas congressional delegation then introduced legislation that would allow the highway to be built with state funding. The legislation passed, and the highway was completed in 1978.
The highway was threaded through sensitive environmental areas such as Brackenridge Park and the Olmos flood control basin. This routing led to legal challenges and held up construction of the central part of the project for almost ten years. To mitigate some of the environmental impacts, the highway has six lanes in some areas and eight lanes in other areas, and no access roads serving adjacent to the highway.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
Data for average annual daily trips (AADT) on the McAllister Freeway are only available for years since 1990. In 1990, AADT along the eight-mile corridor ranged from 54,000 at Loop 410 to 103,000 at Hildebrand Avenue, closer to downtown. By 2007, AADT had increased to 102,000 at Loop 410 to 147,000 at Hildebrand Avenue. Traffic at Loop 410 was tempered by the lack of an interchange between US 281 and I-410.
While data is not available for travel times between the airport and downtown prior to construction of the McAllister Freeway, the highway greatly reduced the time required to travel between these two areas. Prior to the highway, travelers used surface roads with traffic signals to get from the airport to downtown. Today, the eight miles can be covered in ten to fifteen minutes via US 281.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
When the McAllister freeway was first being developed, the City of San Antonio condemned property in the corridor needed for the highway construction, but later released it when it appeared the highway would never be built. Land around the airport that had been needed for an interchange between Loop 410 and US 281 was immediately developed. Access to the airport from US 281 required using surface roads, limiting the development potential created by the intersection of these two roads. Further, because the highway was built through an environmentally sensitive corridor and without frontage roads, the development impacts along the highway corridor have been limited.
The highway does provide access to what was an active quarry until the mid-1990's. The quarry was later developed as the Alamo Quarry Market, an open air mall with outdoor dining and entertainment. The market opened in 1997 and incorporates 580,000 square feet of retail with 12 restaurants, 60 stores, and a 16 screen multiplex. The Quarry Village, across the street from the market is a new mixed-use development of 425,000 square feet. This includes 88,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, 15,800 square feet of office, and 280 luxury condominiums. The project, which opened Phase 1 in the fall of 2008, is designed as a pedestrian-oriented community on just over 12 acres of land, a design approach that is new to low-density San Antonio. There is overwhelming consensus among those interviewed for this case study that none of the development at the site of the old quarry could have been built without the access provided by US 281. When complete, approximately 1,550 people will be employed at the two projects. Local officials also noted that the North Star Mall, located off I-410 near the airport, benefits from its location in proximity to US 281.
According to current and past city officials and representatives of the tourism industry, a major contribution of US 281 has been to support the downtown tourism and convention industry by providing reliable access from the airport to downtown. Tourism first emerged as an economic engine in San Antonio in 1969, when the city hosted the World's Fair. Building on the exposure from the fair, the city began to build its tourism industry, focusing on sites such as the Alamo and the downtown River Walk, and attracting major amusement venues such as Sea World, Six Flags, and world-class golf courses. According to a 2006 study, one out of eight workers in the city (approximately 100,300 people), is employed in the hospitality industry. It contributes over $125 million annually in taxes and fees to the city, and more than $222 million to all local governments combined. Much of the tourism activity is centered in the downtown and many of the visitors to San Antonio fly into the airport and access the downtown hotels and sites via US 281. The highway is crucial for supporting the levels of tourism the city enjoys.
A comparison of employment growth in the city, the corridor, and another major corridor in the city can provide some insight into the impact of the highway on development in San Antonio. Employment in San Antonio increased by 71% between 1973 and 1990, and another 37 % between 1990 and 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, employment in the corridor grew by 59% (approximately 6,600 jobs), considerably faster than the region as a whole. In 1990, the corridor had 2.1% of the region's employment, and in 2000, 2.4%. This compares with employment growth of 24% (approximately 3,000 jobs) along the Culebra Road/Bandera Road corridor, a major corridor extending northwest from downtown to Loop 410. This corridor's share of the region's jobs dropped from 2.3 to 2.1%. The discrepancy in growth rates between the corridors provides a proxy for the impact of US 281 on employment growth within a half-mile distance from the highway.
Based on interviews and review of the data, it is estimated that the highway can be credited with attracting 10,000 jobs to San Antonio. These jobs include those at the quarry developments, tourism jobs, and jobs at retail establishments supporting the ever-growing population of the northern areas of the region.
The region responds strongly to the boom-bust cycles that characterize the oil industry. It is also characterized by a strong military presence and strong health care industries. The region has capitalized on both industries to expand into the high technology and biomedical fields.
San Antonio has benefited from the national trend toward migration to the Sun Belt. It has successfully utilized its historic resources to draw tourists into the area. The world-renown San Antonio River Walk was expanded and improved in the early 1980s, providing a major anchor for the downtown tourism district.
Texas law provides extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) to cities over the surrounding unincorporated area. Under ETJ, San Antonio controls growth and zoning in the undeveloped and unincorporated areas on its borders, and the city pursues an aggressive policy of annexation, including along major highway corridors like US 281, where development is expected.
Fisher, Lewis, Saving San Antonio: The Precarious Preservation of a Heritage, 1996.
Butler, Richard V. and Mary E. Stefl, The Economic Impact of San Antonio's Hospitality Industry, 2007.
http://www.city-data.com/city/San-Antonio-Texas.html http://www.texasfreeway.com/SanAntonio/historic/281_1971_study/281_1971_study.shtml http://www.texashighwayman.com/us281n.htm http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2008/05/19/story6.html http://www.quarrymarket.com/information.html http://en.wikipedia.org./wiki/San_Antonio http://en.wikipedia.org./wiki/Bexar_County%2C_Texas www.city-data.com/us-cities/The-South/San-Antonio-Economy.html http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet
Trinity University Alamo Area Council of Governments Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Strategic Alliance for Business and Economic Research San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau City of San Antonio AA Roads TxDOT
Case Study Developed by Sue Moses & Associates