TxDOT Plans To Say Goodbye To I-35 Double-Decker In Austin
The Texas Department of Transportation is opening a month-long public comment period on the upcoming I-35 Capital Express Central project. It promises to reshape not just the interstate, but also the look of downtown Austin.
The project proposes to add two non-tolled high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in each direction on an 8-mile stretch of the interstate between U.S. 290 East and Ben White Boulevard, with additional flyovers at I-35 and U.S. 290 East.
TxDOT has released several initial renderings, all of which eliminate the double-decker design from Airport Boulevard to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Central Austin.
“Over the years, the community has made it clear that they would like to see the upper decks removed," Diann Hodges, a spokesperson for TxDOT’s Austin District, said. “All three of our design concepts call for rebuilding the bridge that crosses Lady Bird Lake and all three of these concepts would lower the lanes through downtown Austin, the main lanes.”
One concept would put the managed HOV lanes underground in a tunnel. Other proposals would put them below grade, or just under the surface.
Funding was found to complete the central portion of the project earlier this year. It’s estimated at $7.5 billion, a little more than the $7.1 billion Project Connect transit expansion plan.
The project also would reconstruct ramps, bridges and intersections, as well as improve frontage roads. There are also plans to enhance bicycle and pedestrian paths and accommodate transit routes.
Hodges said this is just the beginning of the process, with construction not expected to begin until late 2025.
“We are just now designing this. ... We're in the environmental phase of the project,” she said. “And so now is the time to give us input.”
Hodges said TxDOT would be coming back to the public for more input next year.
The full Capital Express program runs for 28 miles from SH 45 North near the Williamson/Travis County line to SH 45 Southeast near the Travis/Hays County line. TxDOT hopes to complete work on the outer portions before starting work downtown, in an effort to minimize expected disruptions. That construction is set to begin in 2022.
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