TxDOT seeks community feedback on I-35 project

Traffic on I-35 - FILE
Traffic on I-35 - FILE

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  In a constant search to improve one of the state’s busiest highways, the Texas Department of Transportation will host an open house to discuss improving a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 35 between US 183 and Riverside Drive in Austin Tuesday night.

The Central 7-mile Comprehensive Plan is a $550 million to $850 million project that would add a tolled express lane in each direction along I-35. It will also address safety and traffic improvements proposed under the Mobility 35 program.

Two alternatives being considered include an express lane which would have direct transit access to the express lanes with two design options in downtown Austin. Or a No-build alternative — essentially doing nothing with the highway.

There are three sections of the Central 7 project with unique attributes:

I-35 through Downtown (Riverside Drive to MLK Boulevard)

  • Add collector-distributor lanes, or intersection bypass lanes, to relieve weaving on main lanes of I-35 and allow drivers to bypass signals
  • Modify entrance and exit ramp locations to allow more time to safely merge into and out of I-35
  • Add U-turns to several intersections to improve traffic operations
  • Reconfigure 15th Street and I-35 interchange by lowering the main-lanes to pass below 15th Street

The plan will also continue studying two geometric options for the section from Eighth Street to Cesar Chavez Street. One would be a raised option, a proposed improvement which would improve the main-lanes to go over the east and west cross-streets. At Cesar Chavez Street, the southbound main-lanes would be rebuilt to go over Cesar Chavez Street similar to the northbound side.

The lowered option proposes improvements involving lowering the I-35 main lanes below current ground level to go under the east and west cross-streets from Eighth Street to Cesar Chavez.

I-35 through the Upper and Lower Deck from MLK Boulevard to Airport Boulevard

  • Add lane in each direction on the upper deck
  • Reconstruct lanes on lower deck to add one express lane in each direction and improve bridge clearances
  • Add U-turns at specific intersections to improve traffic operations
  • Modify entrance and exit ramp locations to allow drivers more time to safely merge into and out of I-35

I-35 from Airport Boulevard to US 183

  • New interchange at Airport Boulevard
  • Modify entrance and exit ramp locations to allow drivers more time to safely merge into and out of I-35
  • Add a new northbound to southbound U-turn at 51st Street

Some Austinites say they wouldn’t mind shelling out some extra money for toll lanes if it means less time stuck in traffic.

“Work in the morning is really bad, especially the traffic taking the kids to school and getting to work. I think it’d be a good idea for the toll road though,” said one driver.

But some landowners are weary, saying if TxDOT decides, they can take their land.

“Sky’s Auto Sales, we have it leased to a car lot right now and that was my concern because if this deal goes through, a car lot is not going to work if there’s no access off the frontage road anymore,” Tommy Knape, who owns the land off of I-35 and 53rd Street says.

“The way it’s going to be, it looks like they’re going to leave my service road so everything is going to be right with the world, but I know this is just all proposed and tentative plans and such.” Knape said.

TxDOT says construction on the Central 7 project would start in 2020. The project should be finished by 2025 but it all depends on funding for the projects which has yet to be identified.

If you couldn’t make it to the open house Tuesday evening, but want to learn more or submit a comment or question — there is an online virtual open house running today through Oct. 4.

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