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Loop 360, the Capital of Texas Highway

Last updated 20-April-2002 (new photo), created 5-March-2001

Also see: Loop 360 construction photos

Loop 360 was once planned to be a freeway, but is currently a four-lane divided highway with frequent (and very annoying) traffic lights, and will remain that way for the indefinite future. Loop 360 traverses the the hills of west Austin and provides outstanding scenery. High-tech startups like to locate in office space along this corridor. In fact, I worked for a "dot-com" startup located on Loop 360 for about 19 months in 1999-2001. There is also a lot of high-priced housing along this corridor. Loop 360 is becoming increasingly urbanized, but land use restrictions will preserve much of the Hill Country setting.

Traffic continues to build on Loop 360. On some days, it already is bumper-to-bumper for long stretches. Up until 1994 when the freeway designation for this corridor was cancelled, planners had bigger plans for Loop 360. The Loop 360 freeway would have been the western segment of the inner loop of freeways, which included 183 on the north and east, and 71/290 on the south. But Loop 360 was a victim of the great 1994 freeway cancellation event, which also cancelled the western section of the outer parkway and the Koenig Lane (2222) freeway.

Planning documents currently list Loop 360 as a long-term 6-lane expressway, which would mean adding two lanes to the existing facility. The annoying traffic lights will remain. In terms of improvements to Loop 360, nothing is even in the preliminary planning stage right now. So it will be a long, long time (at least 10 years) before any significant improvements occur. There is one glimmer of hope for the eternal optimist: the recently approved planning document for Austin lists the corridor as "right-of-way preservation for freeway."

Loop 1

Highway History
1970     The south section from US 290 to RM 2244 is opened on February 11, 1970, including the Barton Creek bridge.
1980 A 1980 aerial photograph shows the southbound lanes complete and the northbound lanes under construction from 2244 to south of Lake Austin.
1982 On December 3, 1982, the Lake Austin Bridge is opened. Loop 360 is completed.
1994 The planned future freeway status of Loop 360 is cancelled in the major freeway cancellation event of 1994.
2001 Traffic congestion continues to worsen in the corridor. There are no plans to improve the facility.

Photos start at the south and proceed northward. Photos taken March 4, 2001, except as noted.

Loop 360
A. (high resolution 190k) This is the southern end of Loop 360. Barton Creek is at the low point, and Loop 1 crosses in the distance. Photo taken 25-March-2001, looking northwest. Also, see a 1970 view of this location, just after the roadway was opened (86 KB).

Loop 360
B. (high resolution 162k) Loop 360 features many nice cuts through limestone hills. This one is just north of 2244, Bee Caves Road. View looks north.

Loop 360
C. This view looks north from one of the cliffs in the limestone cut shown in the preceeding photo.

Loop 360
D. (high resolution 164k) Looking south over an office complex. Photo taken 1-September-2001.

Loop 360
E. (high resolution 183k) The central part of Loop 360 features some very high-priced neighborhoods. This view looks south.

Loop 360
F. (high resolution 220k) This view looks north over the Colorado River valley area. The Lake Austin (Colorado River) bridge can be seen at far right.

Loop 360
G. (high resolution 135k) This view looks east at the Lake Austin Bridge, officially named the Pennybacker bridge in honor of a TxDOT engineer. The bridge was opened December 3, 1982.

Loop 360
H. (high resolution 145k) This view of the bridge looks north. The boat ramp beneath the bridge is very popular with local boaters.

Loop 360
J. (high resolution 409k) This view looks north over the overpass crossing at Ranch Road 2222. Photo taken 17-April-2002.

Loop 360
K. (high resolution 291k) Just to the east of Loop 360 is the low water crossing on Lakewood Drive. This view looks north.

Loop 360
L. Here's how the low water crossing looks during heavy rain. This high-water event occured in late March, 2001. This view looks south.

Loop 360
M. (high resolution 283k) This creekside view shows the northernmost crossing over Bull Creek near Spicewood Springs road. (There are actually 3 crossings of Bull Creek.) View looks west.

Loop 360
This map section shows a 1968 map with the southern section of Loop 360 under construction.

 
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