Texas Interstate 35 plans add cap and point design, upper deck indentation

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – Following substantial contributions from city leaders and community advocates, updated draft designs released by the Texas Department of Transportation last week highlighted changes to its revised draft of Interstate 35 for $ 4.9 billion.

The proposed freeway extension was greeted with concern by community members who said the freeway extension would further divide east Austin from the city’s downtown core, and have a impact on residential and commercial infrastructure near the roadway. In the latest proposal iteration of TxDOT, added features include:

  • Removal of upper decks
  • Added caps and dots above the highway
  • Crossing the Lance Armstrong bike path
  • Improved cycling, pedestrian connections to Lady Bird Lake
  • Reduced road speed limits on the front
  • Adding community art, place creation design elements

Heyden Walker is the co-founder and chairman of the board of directors of Reconnect Austin, a grassroots initiative that re-envisions improvements to I-35 through a community boulevard proposal. Walker noted his appreciation for changes such as the removal of upper decks and reduced speed limits, but said a widened pavement would only contribute to Austin’s congestion problems.

“When you widen highways, when you add lanes, you rarely solve traffic jams,” she said. “But what you’re doing is providing additional lanes, so more people will choose to drive, and that’s called induced demand.”

As part of Reconnect Austin’s goals for I-35, she advocated for a focus on non-singular transit options, including bus services and improved access routes for bikes and pedestrians. With the City of Austin’s goal by 2039 for 50% of residents to use multimodal transit options, coupled with its climate change efforts, she said it would better move those two initiatives forward.

While she said she still hopes to see changes to her expansion efforts, Walker praised the city and TxDOT’s efforts to incorporate public comment into its revised proposals. She said she hopes more people will continue to share their thoughts on the preliminary plans at an upcoming community open house.

“I think the partnership is really important and I think it makes a big difference,” she said. “And we’re really happy to see that happen. “

TxDOT will present its latest changes at a community engagement meeting on January 25 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The hybrid event will be held in person at the Austin Central Library, as well as on Zoom here.

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