Losoya Street serves as the River Walk’s alley. It’s where delivery drivers park to unload goods and where restaurants line-up trash cans and run grease trap pumps. Over the years, a few bars have popped up along it. For many who work on the street or drive down it everyday, it’s not viable to think the roadway could be turned into a two-way street — two current southbound lanes joined by another lane going north. But that is what the Alamo interpretive plan calls for, along with other roadway alterations and closures.
“You have to come down here at night or on a Friday afternoon, and there is traffic backed up on Losoya … that’s two lanes working,” said Bill Lyons, owner of restaurants Casa Rio and Schilo’s.
He also owns the River Walk property that is home to restaurants Lone Star Cafe, Cafe Ole, and Michelino’s, whose backs are to Losoya near East Commerce Street.
Planners suggest converting Losoya to two-way traffic to make up for the loss of the northbound land on Alamo Street that would be lost if the plaza is closed to traffic. The plan also recommends closing two blocks of East Houston Street and a part of East Crockett Street near the plaza.
Making Losoya a two-way street has drawn the most criticism.
Nearly 20 businesses operate on the two-block Losoya — from Houston to Commerce streets — all of which receive deliveries throughout the week.
“There are two components of Losoya,” said Gene Dawson, president of Pape-Dawson Engineers, the company behind the traffic study that supports the plan. “One, is, it’s carrying traffic. And, two, is its function as a delivery point for lots of areas downtown.”
If Losoya is made a two-way, and vehicles are funneled onto the roadway in both directions, Ticket Sports Pub owner Todd Koym predicts traffic will get worse.
“Do they (planners) realize what’s going on now … that people get stuck in a traffic jam that goes nowhere?” said Koym asked, who sees the traffic clot during peak times from his bar on the corner of Losoya and Houston.
Koym said he thinks people unfamiliar with the area wind up getting stuck on Losoya because they think it will take them into an area where they can park.
“If they close Alamo Street in front of the Alamo, they’re going to have to make (Losoya) two way. There’s no choice,” he said. “I don’t really agree with it, but, on the other hand, there’s no way to go north if you close Alamo.”
Dawson said a two-way Losoya would result in about the same or improved travel times for drivers who use Losoya in both directions to traverse downtown .
“On a pure traffic sense—because we are improving the level of service at the intersections at Houston (and) Broadway/Losoya, and improving the intersections at Commerce—in theory, from a traffic standpoint, that would be the same or better,” he said about northbound and southbound travel time on Losoya.
“You know, traffic is like water. It finds its path of least resistance,” Dawson said.
The traffic study shows Losoya is the only north-south street in that part of downtown that’s near capacity.
Lyons and Koym see traffic snarl on Losoya throughout the day, in part because deliveries need to be made throughout downtown and parking is limited for the large trucks or vans carrying merchandise. Drivers park their vehicles on three bump-outs — or indentations in the sidewalk for temporary parking — on Losoya. They then make deliveries all over downtown from their Losoya spot, Dawson said.
Without solving the delivery and traffic congestion issues, Lyons said he can’t support making Losoya a two-way.
“Everybody I’ve talked to just wonders how it could possibly work. It makes good sense if you don’t add all these complications to it,” Lyons said. “It looks good on paper, let’s put it that way.”
But Dawson said the key to rerouting downtown traffic is to find an equilibrium between businesses’ needs and commuter needs.
One of the ways he envisions finding that balance is through designated delivery times during non-peak hours throughout downtown. He said, there’s very little traffic before 7 a.m. downtown, and traffic dies down around around 9:30 a.m., after the morning rush. Afternoon peak hours are about 3:30-7 p.m. Delivery drivers could work around those times, he said, and drivers could potentially park their trucks on one of the two southbound lanes to make deliveries.
Since the plans are still conceptual, Dawson said he doesn’t know exactly how many delivery vehicles use Losoya each day. After that data is collected, he said, during a later phase of planning, an entire lane on Losoya could accommodate delivery drivers because it would provide more space than drivers currently use with the bump-outs.
Or, delivery drivers could use a designated space on Losoya across from the Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk and on the backside of the proposed Alamo museum. And on East Crockett Street, which will become a designated pedestrian area, it may be possible to move traffic bollards during specified times to make way for deliveries, he said.
If no changes are made to Losoya, and Alamo were to close, Dawson said people’s travel times using alternate north-south streets would increase by about two minutes. The surrounding streets most likely to be impacted by such a detour — Pecan, McCullough, Broadway, 3rd, North Alamo, and Navarro — all have capacity to absorb more vehicles, even with an estimated 3 percent growth in downtown traffic per year, according to the study.
“Right now, today, we could build 16 Frost (Bank) Towers with the arterial capacity leading into downtown and with our streets as they exist today,” Dawson said.
The traffic study Pape-Dawson conducted is not a done deal in the Alamo interpretive plan.
Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said the Planning Commission and eventually the City Council will have to approve any street changes. This means Losoya could still remain unchanged.
“And maybe that will be the solution because maybe everyone will say Losoya is too sacred to change from the delivery standpoint because deliveries are the backbone of the River Walk industry and the hotels,” Dawson said. “So we have a lot of work to do.”
Featured photo by V. Finster | San Antonio Heron
Other Losoya photos courtesy Bill Lyons