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281 McAllister Freeway, San Antonio

Created and last updated July 9, 2001

Also see: San Antonio Area Freeways 281 information page and 281 photo gallery
North Expressway 1971 Study, which includes some fascinating photos.

The 281 freeway in San Antonio was one of the more controversial freeways in Texas, and possibly the most controversial. The only freeways that could contend for that title are the Koenig Lane/2222 freeway in Austin and the Outer Parkway in Austin. Of course, the 281 freeway in San Antonio was constructed, while the Austin freeways were cancelled.

The history of the 281 freeway and the interchange (or lack of an interchange) at IH-410 is very interesting. See the San Antonio Freeways 281 information page for the full story. If you're a glutton for arcane historic details, check out this June 1970 Texas Highways Magazine article detailing the legal proceedings as of that date. The battle was really just beginning in 1970. The 281 freeway was even discussed in the 1970 anti-freeway book Superhighway-Superhoax, probably the most vicious anti-freeway book ever published. The 281 freeway was one of the few freeways discussed in the book that was ultimately constructed.

Because of the environmental, parkland, and neighborhood hazards to the freeway, the freeway winds like a snake through near-north San Antonio, skirting a golf course, Brackenridge park, and a flood control basin. This circuitous route to avoid hazards was ahead of its time. Today, circuitous routes are often the only way new freeways can be built. Recent examples of approved alignments are SH 130 in central Texas and the Grand Parkway in Houston.

For more photos, see the San Antonio Freeways 281 photo gallery. This page is really just intended to supplement the San Antonio freeways page, and I have focused on driver views (i.e. images taken from the vehicle on the freeway).


Photos start at downtown proceed northward

Due to cloudy weather conditions, some images are substandard

A. Driver's view looking south towards downtown, with the Hemisfair tower in the background. Photo taken 7-July-2001.

B. Driver's view looking north, with a dynamic information sign in view. These signs are common on San Antonio freeways and report the driving time to major intersections. Photo taken 7-July-2001.

C. Driver's view looking north at the severely restricted right-of-way at Brackenridge Park. This is probably the most interesting and usual feature of the freeway. Although not visible in the photo, Sunken Gardens in on the right, and Alamo stadium is on the left. Photo taken 7-July-2001. The San Antonio Freeways page provides a detailed description of this location, which is slightly modified below.

The freeway was shoehorned between Alamo Stadium (left) and Brackenridge Park (right). To make room for the freeway and provide a sound barrier, the freeway route was lowered (as evidenced by the exposed limestone wall at the lower right). Alpine Dr. (a perimeter road around Sunken Gardens) was saved and left at its original location, but was cantelevered over the edge of the freeway. Midway along the left side of the freeway is a short cantelevered section of the Alamo Stadium parking lot. Just beyond this the freeway takes a hard curve to the left as it passes under Hildebrand Ave. As you might imagine, this area is frequently congested.

281 San Antonio
(high resolution 219k) D. This view is the same location as above, except looking south from the perspective of a driver. Photo taken 7-July-2001.

281 San Antonio
(high resolution 173k) E. Driver's view looking north in the Olmos Flood control basin, a heavily wooded area. Photo taken 7-July-2001.

281 San Antonio
(high resolution 141k) F. Driver's view looking south in the Olmos basin, near Basse Road. Photo taken 7-July-2001.

281 San Antonio
(high resolution 129k) G. Driver's view looking north about 1 mile south of IH-410. Photo taken 7-July-2001.

281 San Antonio
(high resolution 172k) H. North of IH-410, 281 skirts the edge of San Antonio Airport. Photo taken 7-July-2001.

281 San Antonio

(high resolution 143k) J. The approach to the main runway at San Antonio airport brings low-flying aircraft over 281. The guidance assembly over the freeway is shown in the lower photo. Photo taken 7-July-2001.

281 San Antonio
(high resolution 172k) K. Near West Avenue, about 2 miles south of 1604. Photo taken 7-July-2001.

281 San Antonio
(high resolution 172k) L. Looking south over the 281 corridor from the Loop 1604 overpass. Photo taken 7-July-2001.

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