Monday, October 4, 2021

City of Austin lays out priorities, positions on TxDOT’s I-35 project

 

I-35 crosses Lady Bird Lake in Austin. The Texas Department of Transportation is reconstructing a stretch of the highway through downtown. 
I-35 crosses Lady Bird Lake in Austin. The Texas Department of Transportation is reconstructing a stretch of the highway through downtown.

The most recent public comment period closed on Sept. 24 for the I-35 Capital Express Central project, a $4.9 billion effort led by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to reconstruct I-35 through Central Austin.  

The City of Austin is a partner of TxDOT’s on the project, and before the comment period closed, Assistant City Manager Gina Fiandaca, who oversees Mobility, submitted comments into the official record on behalf of the City. 

“We stand ready to continue our collaboration with TxDOT but are anxious for a strong commitment to meaningfully review certain design elements discussed herein,” Fiandaca wrote.  

The city’s requests for changes to the latest proposed alternatives TxDOT is carrying forward include:  

  • Acknowledging the need to address health and the historic role the highway plays in negatively impacting Austin’s communities of color in the project’s purpose and need statement, which drives design decisions 

  • Creating more east-west connections to address the long-term impacts of physical separation I-35 has created, including helping to perpetuate a lower wage-earning, less healthy population east of the highway  

  • Including supportive structures for future caps, or large decks on top of the highway, and wide bridges as part of the project’s construction 

  • Mitigating the impact of additional trips the project will cause by constructing transit facilities in conjunction with the overall project  

  • If the current lane design is to be maintained, changing the designation of the HOV lanes to HOV/Toll or HOT lanes, allowing them to be converted sometime in the future based on the operational characteristics of the facility  

The City’s requests align with the priorities of Austin leadership. On September 24, Mayor Steve Adler submitted a letter to TxDOT cosigned by eight City Council members stating the City was heartened to see many elements in the design that support Austin’s vision, but “concerns about the current alternatives remain, and there are additional elements we request be incorporated so we can offer our support and ensure we realize the full potential of this transformational project.” 

The letters and supporting documents are available at AustinTexas.gov/I-35Mobility.

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