Bexar County Commissioners have approved funding for a feasibility study for a “super street” on Loop 1604 from Braun Rd. to SH 151. This would be the same concept recently approved for US 281 north of Loop 1604.
Essentially, the super street eliminates cross-traffic on the main thoroughfare (in this case, Loop 1604). This allows for longer green times for through traffic on 1604, which in turn means that more traffic can get through during each cycle. Traffic wanting to continue across Loop 1604 on the intersecting roads (which on this stretch of 1604 is only on Braun Rd.) would instead make a right turn onto 1604, then a U-turn, then a right turn again back onto the road they wanted to continue on. Traffic wanting to turn left onto 1604 would follow the same path, but just stay on 1604 after making the U-turn. This sounds complicated and sounds like a lot of going out of the way for some drivers (which is somewhat true), but the result is an overall reduction of congestion in the area. On US 281, for instance, the super street is expected to reduce some peak commute times by 50%. As a result, everyone benefits, including those who have to make those extra turns. This also sounds like a safety hazard for those who have to make those turns, but there would be signals to protect traffic making those movements. Those signals would have fewer phases than the existing ones and could all work in tandem, which is where the benefits are reaped.
Some folks immediately grouse that this section of Loop 1604 (as well as US 281) just needs overpasses to solve the problem. Yes, a full expressway (which includes overpasses and the required additional infrastructure like entrance and exit ramps and access roads) is the likely ultimate solution. However, there is currently no environmental clearance to build such a solution– the environmental studies for both 281 and 1604 are currently underway and are expected to take about three years to complete. Furthermore, there is currently no funding for such a fix– the amount of money it would take to build a super street from Braun to 151 is less than it would take to build a single overpass. Therefore, this is a good, cheap, short-term fix while the bigger solution can be put together over the next five to ten years.
The super street concept is not something new– it has a proven track record in several other states. However, it is a new concept in Texas; the US 281 super street will be the first in the state when it is built next year.
More on how super streets work is on my US 281 Super Street page: http://www.texashighwayman.com/us281ss.htm.