The traffic jams on Interstate 35 through Downtown Austin are legendary and annoying to many who drive the stretch of highway on a regular basis.
A new proposal put together by architect Sinclair Black hopes to turn a divider into a community space that would tie the area together.
"The plan is more about the city than about the road," said Black. "The idea is to reconnect East- and West Austin, which has been brutally divided by the highway. Everybody knows that and nobody knows what do to about it."
Sinclair's plan includes taking eight lanes of traffic on I-35 from 15th Street to Lady Bird Lake and moving them underground. The lanes would be capped above the freeway, allowing 30 acres to be utilized for mixed-use development and an urban boulevard.
The proposal would also eliminate the need for several lanes of access roads parallel to the highway.
"The access roads are no longer needed," Black said. "They become an urban boulevard that travels the whole distance."
The cost to undertake this project could run well above $500 million, but Black says that amount would pay back nearly 2-to-1 in returns throughout the next 25 years from an estimated $929 million in city revenue.
"Two million square feet of restaurants on the creek on the boulevard, so on and so forth," Black said of how the new space could be used. "It's a really pretty attractive view of the future."
The project would take years to complete, and there are many obstacles still to overcome. So far, Black has gained community support for coming up with a possible solution to one of Austin's biggest problems.
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