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TxDOT Backs Plans to Bury I-35 – Just Don’t Hold Your Breath Waiting

A TxDOT rendering of a sunk and capped I-35 in downtown Austin. TxDOT is currently focused on less ambitious I-35 fixes, like improving ramps.

Sorry, Austin – there's no money to improve the Interstate 35 corridor. At least not enough for a full face-lift, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

But as money becomes available, TxDOT says it will continue working on portions of the highway. At a media workshop today, the state agency said that by the end of the year it should move from the planning stages of I-35 improvements and into studying their environmental impact. That should take about two years. And then – if funding is available – it will be time to start implementing changes.

So what changes are under consideration?

There's talk about adding lanes (possibly toll lanes) in each direction on I-35. There's also plans to change traffic patterns, and address I-35's existing ramps. Some ramps are too short, forcing drivers to speed up aggressively to merge onto the highway, and decelerate unnaturally to get on the access roads. "We don't design ramps the way we did 50 years ago," says TxDOT consultant Steve Miller, adding fewer and longer ramps are a safer option.

But what about bigger, more drastic changes? The biggest such plan is the Cut and Cap proposal that would sink I-35 through downtown and create a series of parks over the freeway.

For now, TxDOT says plans to bury I-35 are for the more distant future. While it isn't ruling those plans out, there's no timeline to begin work. Still, TxDOT revealed several graphics of what a sunken, capped I-35 would look like. Visit the KUT Tumblrto see a video rendering. 

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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