Interstate 10 - Texas

Interstate 10 is a study of contrasts through Texas. Covering 881 miles, the longest interstate in Texas travels from the scrubby deserts of El Paso to the bayous of Orange. The drive is quite memorable, if nothing else for the sheer length of time it takes to drive.

Interstate 10 enters Texas at the New Mexico border, in the town of Anthony, co-signed with US 180. From there, it proceeds south along the Rio Grande, keeping in a narrow strip of land between the Rio Grande on the west and the Franklin Mountains on the east, to swing through downtown El Paso. This section of Interstate 10 is congested but has been widened and reconstructed several times. US 180 leaves IH-10 east of downtown.

Southeast of El Paso, traffic dies down and the freeway narrows to two lanes each direction. The next 500 miles until San Antonio are some of the most desolate freeway miles anywhere in the nation. IH-10 continues to parallel the Rio Grande for another 40 miles before turning east and climbing into the Sierra Blanca and Davis Mountains.

The town of Van Horn is a historic railroad and roadway junction, and is the beginning of US 90. US 90 swings south into Big Bend country before rejoining IH-10 in San Antonio. Van Horn today holds some of the few traveler amenities anywhere along IH-10 in West Texas.

IH-10 spawns IH-20 30 miles east of Van Horn. This junction marks the split between old US 80, which was replaced by IH-20, and US 290, which continues south and east to Houston. Old US 290 was replaced by IH-10 in West Texas. The majority of the traffic takes IH-20, leaving IH-10 empty. For the next 400 miles, it is not uncommon to be the only car in sight.

The largest town along IH-10 between El Paso and San Antonio is Fort Stockton, a ranching and oil center.

Fort Stockton is also known for Paisano Pete, a large roadrunner statue in the middle of town. Photo taken February 27, 2006.

The second to last section of IH-10 in Texas built is the Sheffield bypass. Old US 290 twisted and turned around the Pecos river, while IH-10 straightened out the old road significantly. Old US 290 still exists through Sheffield, and is marked as TX 290.

Continuing through range and oil country, IH-10 enters the unincorporated town of Ozona. Ozona is the only unincorporated county seat in Texas.

Closer to Sonora, IH-10 enters the eastern fringes of Hill Country. Hill Country is a land of rolling limestone hills, Live Oak trees, and rolling grasslands. Most of south central Texas obtains their water from the Hill Country, which IH-10 will traverse until San Antonio, approximately 150 miles. Just to the west of Sonora are the Caverns of Sonora, a noted landmark and home to some unique formations, including a natural butterfly formation.

Interstate 10 turns southeast and separates from US 290 16 miles east of Junction. While US 290 continues east to Austin and northwest Houston, eventually terminating at IH-610 in Houston, IH-10 continues southeast to follow the route of old TX 27 through Kerrville and Comfort, joining US 87 in Comfort.

The section of IH-10 between Comfort and San Antonio is co-signed with US 87, and passes through the rapidly growing town of Boerne. As San Antonio grows northward, Boerne is becoming a bedroom community, with new suburbs mixed with farmhouses. Traffic starts building on the freeway as it continues southeast to land in San Antonio.

The San Antonio metropolitan area is the third largest in Texas, and is rapidly growing. San Antonio is best known for the Alamo, located in the heart of downtown, but also features the Riverwalk as well as being headquarters for SBC. The city is unique for being totally reliant on the Edwards Aquifer, which is fed from the Hill Country and emerges as the San Antonio River through downtown. IH-10 passes through the growing northwest side of the city, passing the large USAA campus before reaching Loop 410.

The original Loop 410 (west) interchange is being rebuilt from it's original six lane configuration, with left-hand exits, to a five level stack to serve the explosive growth of the northwest side. Inbound from Loop 410, the original four lane US 87 freeway was rebuilt in the early 1990s to a double-deck configuration, fitting additional lanes in the narrow right-of-way.

Through downtown, IH-10 forms the west and south sides of the downtown loop. The west side is double-decked and co-signed with IH-35, ending at a four level interchange with US 90 from the west. US 90 and IH-10 will be cosigned or closely paralell each other until Jacksonville, FL.

IH-10 rapidly leaves downtown and travels east through the flat plains of South Texas. The freeway is more heavily travelled in this section, completed by 1972, due to traffic in the "Texas Triangle" between Houston and San Antonio (the other leg of the triangle being Dallas).

Heading east, the freeway passes through Seguin, Luling, Columbus, and Sealy, before reaching the coastal plains approaching Katy. At Sealy, the road grows to six lanes as it approaches the Houston metropolitan area.

The city of Katy is a rapidly growing suburb of Houston, and traffic slows dramatically east of Katy. IH-10 is under perpetual reconstruction to keep pace with the rapid growth, and is in the process of being widened to 10 lanes and a reversible HOV lane. The tight four-level stack with the Sam Houston Tollway (Beltway 8) is being rebuilt as it has reached obsolecence many years before it was designed to.

Passing Loop 610, IH-10 enters downtown Houston. The freeway widens to ten lanes, and the HOV lane ends as IH-10 approaches IH-45. Through the lengthy IH-10/IH-45 interchange, IH-45 runs in what would be an extended median between the east and west-bound lanes of IH-10.

Passing IH-45, IH-10 goes through several lane shifts for thru traffic, due to left-hand exits, before reaching US 59 (future IH-69) on the east side of downtown. Meeting Loop 610 and the Sam Houston Parkway (Beltway 8) on the east side of Houston, IH-10 marches east toward Baytown, carrying significant traffic to Beaumont and New Orleans.

Leaving Baytown, IH-10 leaves urbanization and traverses coastal plains through Anahuac, before entering the Piney Woods of East Texas and Bayou country. Located in the middle of this is Beaumont, the last major city along IH-10 in Texas. The section between Houston and Beaumont follows former SH 73, with US 90 taking a more northerly track to reach Beaumont.

A short twenty miles after Beaumont is Orange and the Sabine River. On the high bridge above the Sabine River, 881 miles after entering Texas, IH-10 enters Louisiana.

There are four Business loops on IH-10:

  • BI-10C: Sierra Blanca (former US 80)
  • BI-10D: Van Horn (former US 80)
  • BI-10F: Balmorhea (former SH 17/US 290)
  • BI-10G: Fort Stockton (former US 290)

Construction History

  • 1959: IH-10 commissioned across Texas.
  • 1960: IH-10 open from Houston city limits to Winnie, except for the bypass of San Jacinto. In West Texas, IH-10 is complete from the New Mexico state line to the El Paso city limits and 15 miles west of Van Horn to Van Horn (as conversions of US 80 and SH 73 multi-lane highway).
  • 1964: IH-10 completed from New Mexico state line to Mesa Street in El Paso, then east of Downtown El Paso to 10 miles west of Sierra Blanca, and from Beckmann north of San Antonio to Seguin. Columbus bypass open. Road complete from Houston at US 90 (east) to Orange.
  • 1965: IH-10 completed from US 59 in Houston east to Louisiana. In West Texas, IH-10 is completed from New Mexico to Mesa Street in El Paso, and east of Downtown El Paso to Van Horn. IH-10 is completed from Loop 410 to downtown and from East Loop 410 to 15 miles west of Seguin.
  • 1966: Various sections between Balmorhea and Ft. Stockton converted to freeway. Freeway opened between Boerne and Leon Springs, with a one mile section uncompleted between Leon Springs and Beckmann. Freeway completed between Glidden and Loop 610 west in Houston.
  • 1969: IH-10 is completed from New Mexico to Van Horn (with the exception of 0.4 miles through downtown El Paso), from Ozona to Sonora, Boerne to Seguin, Engle to IH-45, and US 59 to Louisiana. The downtown El Paso section is opened in July.
  • 1972: IH-45 to US 59 link opens in Houston, completing IH-10 east of San Antonio.
  • 1976: IH-10 completed from El Paso to 5 miles east of Balmorhea, 20 miles west of Fort Stockton to Bakersfield, and 5 miles west of Ozona to Sonora. The Junction bypass to US 290/IH-10 split, and Mountain Home to Louisiana sections are complete.
  • 1980: Uncompleted sections are 5 miles east of Balmorhea to 20 miles west of Fort Stockton, the Fort Stockton bypass, Sheffield bypass, and sections between Sonora and Junction.
  • 1981: Road completed between Sonora and Junction.
  • 1982: Only uncompleted section is the Fort Stockton bypass.
  • 1987: Reconstruction begins of IH-10 in San Antonio from Loop 410 (west) to US 90.
  • 2004: Reconstruction of IH-10 in Houston from SH 99 to IH-610 West begins.

Interstate 10 Highway Guides

Interstate 10 scenes
These FM 155 shields face departing traffic from Interstate 10 westbound. Northward FM 155 travels to U.S. 77 at La Grange, the county seat of Fayette County. Photo taken 12/30/02.
FM 155 continues south of Schulenburg to Alternate U.S. 90 near Sheridan. U.S. 90 travels through downtown Schulenburg independent of Interstate 10 to the north, only to return to the freeway just three miles to the east. Photo taken 12/30/02.
102 miles to the east at Schulenburg is this Interstate 10 shield assembly on FM 155 southbound. The downtown area of the town is just north of Exit 682. Photo taken 12/30/02.

Page Updated October 20, 2008.

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