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Transportation and UTSA’s Environmental Impact, Part 2

December 3, 2012

In our previous post on the transportation challenges facing the development of UTSA, we looked at the predicament facing UTSA administrators  as the university became locked in a cycle where students, faculty, and staff increasing relied on private vehicles to commute to the new campus at 1604.

By 1978, the congestion problems surrounding the young campus had already come to a head.  Enrollment at UTSA had quickly ballooned to 8,885 students in the Fall of 1978, and with the university community totaling over 10,000, it left roughly 9,300 commuters fighting for 3,339 parking spaces. With only 1-3% of the university using public transportation, commuters to UTSA had 3 to 1 odds of finding a parking space.

The roads in and around campus were so congested with cars that by 1977 Bexar County and the Texas State Department of Highways and Transportation were advocating for a new cloverleaf interchange to be constructed between IH 10 and Loop 1604. When the final environmental impact statement was released by the U.S. Department of Transportation in December 1978, a majority of stakeholders were in support of the proposed interchange, including acting UTSA President James Wagner, San Antonio District 10 Councilman John Steen, Bexar County Commissioners Jeff Wentworth and Thomas Stolhandske, Mayor Gene Sharp of Shavano Park, Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and the Edwards Underground Water District.

Photograph of model of proposed 1604 Interchange, Northside Recorder, April 20, 1978

Photograph of model of proposed 1604 Interchange, Northside Recorder, April 20, 1978

Proposed entrance to UTSA campus off of Loop 1604 Interchange, 1978

Proposed entrance to UTSA campus off of Loop 1604 Interchange, 1978

On April 25, 1978, the Texas State Department of Highways and Transportation conducted a town hall meeting on the proposed interchange and its environmental impact on the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer. The overwhelming majority of the 125 people in attendance were vociferous in their support of the project.  Mayor Sharp summarized the view of many of those in attendance when he asserted that “[w]e’ve suffered along with everyone else with increased traffic during the last eight years. The course becomes more and more sporting each time. If it continues we’ll have a solid meat grinder from UTSA to IH 10. In the negative here tonight are the same factors that held up McAllister Freeway. Shavano Park supports the cloverleaf.” [1]

San Antonio League of Women Voters response to proposed 1604 Interchange, 1978

San Antonio League of Women Voters response to proposed 1604 Interchange, 1978

But not everyone at the town hall meeting was in support of the proposed interchange. The most notable critics of the plan were Faye Sinkin, coordinator of the Aquifer Protection Association, Ivan Cameron, representative from the Sierra Club, and members of the League of Women Voters. The chief argument against the planned interchange was that it would endanger the Edwards Aquifer, do little to alleviate traffic congestion, and only encourage more economic development and growth over the aquifer.  As one opponent to the plan wrote in a letter to District 10 Representative John Steen, “the proposed expansion of the IH 10, Babcock Road-1604 road system will be a land developers dream. Unfortunately, that area is directly over the Edwards Aquifer which is San Antonio’s only source of pure drinking water.”[2]


[1] “Aquifer said unharmed by interchange,” The North San Antonio Times May 4, 1978.

[2] “Loop 1604 and Interstate Highway 10: Final Environmental Impact Statement,” Federal Highway Administration Region 6, December 15, 1978, 51-JJ.

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