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What Are Those Dinosaur Bone Things on I-35?

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News
These giant beams are light fixtures that will illuminate the parking lot underneath.

Thousands of people drive over the I-35 bridge in downtown Austin everyday, and many are probably wondering about the large metal beams poking from underneath. Some people have compared them to dinosaur bones or whale bones.

As we first reported when the city broke ground on the project, the beams are actually gigantic lighting fixtures. The project is aimed at revitalizing the dreary parking lot underneath the Interstate between 6th and 8th streets. It's also an effort to create a symbolic link between east and west Austin.

[T]he most dramatic feature will be fourteen enormous lighting tubes that stretch upwards – almost like the horns of a Longhorn – from underneath the interstate out to the property line on the east and west frontage roads. The massive fixtures will contain programmable multi-color LEDs that can put on a light show. “It also is kind of like party lights, or like a suspension bridge, kind of bridging land masses from one side to the other,” project architect Phillip Reed said.  “We can’t rip this down, but let’s do something that might help ease the separation, help some kind of psychological flow under and beneath this freeway.”

Sara Hartley at City of Austin Public Works says the project is on schedule. The city's task of installing the lights should be completed by the end of January. The Texas Department of Transportation is then scheduled to finish the landscaping, including benches and plants.

You can see what the project will look like by playing the slideshow below. We also added some pictures of the parking lot before the project began, for comparison.

Created with flickr slideshow.
Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.