The City of Austin and the Texas Department of Transportation hosted a community open house Sept. 25 to receive feedback about the five-phase process intended to improve mobility on I-35.
The goal is to eventually improve mobility on I-35 from William Cannon Drive to East Hwy. 290, north of downtown. The city has been discussing improvements on this section of the project since August 2011.
In August 2012, the project limits were expanded to Toll 45 near Pflugerville to SH 45 in South Austin. This section of I-35 ranks as the fourth most-congested corridor in the state and the 15th most-congested corridor in the nation, said Gary Schatz, assistant director of the city's transportation department.
Because the improvements are expensive and time-consuming, the city is looking for feedback from the community for smaller projects to help improve I-35, such as flattening sharp turns, creating express lanes through the corridor and creating better, dynamic message signs to let drivers know early on about accidents or congestion problems.
“What could you do short-term, medium-term, that could address a lot of things, with everybody recognizing, 'OK, the big three-, four-, five-billion-dollar fixes aren't coming any time soon?'” Schatz said.
Proposed solutions to the project have been to make the roads wider, taller and deeper. However, because of historical landmarks, the University of Texas practice field, the displacement of residents and businesses, St. David's Medical Center, Texas State cemetery, funding and other factors, the process is ongoing.
“The challenge, of course, has been two-fold: they're very expensive propositions, so it takes a lot of budget for that, but it also takes a lot of community will," Schatz said. "When you want to widen a freeway, you're taking land on either side.”
Currently, the city has provided $1 million, and TxDOT has provided $1.2 million toward the project, but Schatz said the project has been a collaboration.
“It is City of Austin, TxDOT, Cap Metro, CAMPO, CTRMA, Travis County, Hays County, Williamson County—it's all of us because I-35 is our road. It's our challenge.” Schatz said.
Additional open houses for community feedback will be scheduled. Austin residents are also able to provide their thoughts on the Austin Mobility website.
To view maps and proposed ideas of the project areas of I-35, visit the downloads tab.