The Texas Transportation Commission discussed a solution Thursday to the funding gap for the Interstate 35 Capital Express project. Leaders have found $4.3 billion, which would allow the portion through the heart of Austin to move forward.
The proposal would add two non-tolled, managed lanes in each direction on I-35. TxDOT is looking at using high-occupancy vehicles, or HOV lanes, similar to those in Dallas and Houston.
“In recent years, I-35 through Austin has repeatedly been one of the worst chokepoints for drivers in Austin and Texas and the source for understandable frustration,” Texas Transportation Commission Chairman J. Bruce Bugg Jr. said in a statement. “If Austin wants to continue to be a beacon for business and a wonderful quality of life, then work on I-35 Capital Express needs to happen as soon as possible."
Funding had been found for portions of the project between Ben White Boulevard and State Highway 45 Southeast, as well as State Highway 45 North to U.S. Highway 290 East. Construction on those sections is set to begin in 2022.
But plans for the project through downtown Austin have been on hold, because of a lack of funding. The new proposal would add $3.5 billion in discretionary spending and a reallocation of $600 million in TxDOT funds given to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO).
"IH-35 is the spine that brings not only goods, jobs and economic development but global competitiveness to our region," CAMPO Transportation Policy Board chair Cynthia Long said during the meeting. "With this additional funding, one of the largest bottlenecks in Texas will be alleviated."
Long and members of the commission also thanked Gov. Greg Abbott for helping find a solution.
The commission will vote in August on adding another $300 million in the 2021 Unified Transportation Plan. That would bring the total to $7.5 billion for the project.
Separately, the Urban Land Institute is in Austin this week to study what to do once I-35 is lowered through downtown. They will unveil initial recommendations Friday morning at Huston-Tillotson University.
This story has been updated.
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