NW Military Highway
NW Military Highway (FM 1535) is an 8.192 mile stretch of State Highway from I-410 to Camp Bullis dating from the 1950s that originally served to connect Camp Bullis to the City of San Antonio. Since the 1950s this roadway has grown to be a key arterial for north Bexar County. Roughly 1.8 miles of NW Military runs through the middle of the City of Shavano Park. Over the next fifty years the sleepy road down the middle of Shavano Park became a busy thoroughway with the growth in Bexar County.
NW Military in 21st Century Greater San Antonio
Considerations on NW Military Highway its role as an important roadway in bustling Greater San Antonio began in 1999. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) presented to the City with an expansion plan for NW Military Highway. This plan featured bike lanes, sidewalks, a continous 2-way turn lane and an extra southbound lane from De Zavala to Huebner. This plan was never acted upon by the City as the proposed project would essentially extend the highway scape south of Huebner through the middle of Shavano Park.
Although the 1999 project was rejected, the citizens of Shavano Park continued to be mindful of growing traffic congestion and highway safety concerns. After a decade of continued traffic growth and development in north Greater San Antonio the City began to take action in planning its own highway project. The 2010 Town Plan addressed NW Military Highway by concluding, "Throughout the planning process, the citizens of Shavano Park strongly expressed their desire and support for the City to take control, to the greatest extent possible, of the decision-making process for development, design, and the look and feel of the impact of the future improvements to NW Military Highway. The citizens of Shavano Park want NW Military Highway to essentially be the "Main Street" for Shavano Park and effectively be designed to support the rural look and feel the citizens want for the City. In addition, the citizens do not want NW Military Highway to further bisect the City or generate a perception that it separates one section of the City from another section." The 2010 Town Plan included medians filled with brush and plant life and a roundabout at DeZavala-Fawn Drive and NW Military.
As a part of the 2010 Town Plan the City, in 2011, contracted Pape-Dawson to conduct a Traffic Study on NW Military Highway to determine traffic congestion levels. The study concluded that a roundabout at De Zavala - NW Military, a signalized traditional intersection at Pond Hill - NW Military and a median installation would improve traffic flow and improve highway safety. The Study counted 11,900 vehicles a day for Shavano Park's portion of NW Military and also predicted that traffic counts by 2016 would increase by nearly 50% to 17,400 vehicles a day. By 2013 traffic counts were already at 15,755 vehicles a day - an increase of over 30% in vehicle traffic just two years. The corridor study came back loud and clear, whatever the City's roadway design would be, the City would experience significantly more traffic in the years to come.
Building a Way Forward
At the January 26, 2015 meeting, City Council reviewed the 1999 TxDOT Plan for NW Military Highway as well as a 2011 Pape-Dawson Corridor Study. City Council directed staff to pursue discussions with TxDOT to determine potential future plans or options. City Manager met with TxDOT on three occasions in order to determine TxDOT intentions for NW Military Highway. While TxDOT had a 1999 plan for NW Military Highway, the plan was inactive and TxDOT had no immediate plans to fund or to pursue the project. TxDOT was, however, agreeable to improving NW Military Highway if other funding options were available.
Another funding source available for the project was through the Alamo Area Municipal Planning Organization (AAMPO). MPOs are “regional agencies created by Federal law to conduct a cooperative, continuous and comprehensive transportation planning process;” the San Antonio regional MPO distributes over $200 million annually from federal and state funding sources.
After meetings with TxDoT and AAMPO, the city was presented with an opportunity, if it choose, to partner with TxDOT for submission of a project for improvements to NW Military Hwy under MPO funding in Category 7. Category 7 is part of the Surface Transportation Program-Metro Mobility (STP-MM) that is set aside for urbanized areas with populations greater than 200,000. The STP-MM program is a Federal funding opportunity with a requirement of 20% local match on construction costs. Additionally, non-construction costs under STP-MM are not federally funded and have to be provided by the local government.
- Work with the City to develop an updated plan;
- Submit a NW Military Highway improvement project on the City’s behalf to the AAMPO for federal funding;
- Provide the 20% local match for the construction (as required by the Federal grant);
- Provide payment for all non-construction related costs; and
- Oversee construction of the project.
On November 15, 2015 the City Council unanimously approved the TxDOT plan after recieving recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission and a briefing by the City Manager. The City Council opted to not provide additional funds. On December 1 TxDOT submitted the project to the Alamo Area Municipal Planning Organization (AAMPO).
The AAMPO selection process from February to May included a public hearings, an online survey and in-person meetings held across San Antonio. On April 25, 2016 the Project was selected for funding by the Transportation Policy Board with a construction and funding date slated for 2020. The construction and engineering will be overseen by TxDOT and funded through a combination of federal and state dollars.