AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council accepted on Thursday $1.5 million in federal funding to support the design and engineering of its Interstate 35 “cap and stitch” project. Council approved the item on consent, meaning no additional discussion was held prior to the vote.
The “cap and stitch” project is a component incorporated alongside the Texas Department of Transportation’s $4.9 billion I-35 Capital Express Central project. The eight-mile-long, state-led project would remove the current I-35 decks, add two non-tolled high-occupancy vehicle managed lanes and expand the roadway, among other features.
Supplementary to that is the cap and stitch program, a city-led initiative designed to increase east-west connectivity and help add community spaces above I-35.
Caps are decks or land bridges placed above lowered highways that can support green space, public amenities and even some buildings. Stitches are widened bridges above the highway that would include travel lanes for vehicles and protected paths for cyclists and pedestrians. Stitches could also include design elements like landscaping, shade structures and artwork.
Other Texas communities — including Klyde Warren Park in Dallas — have incorporated park and event space in their designs over local highways.
The $1.5 million in funds authorized by Austin City Council Thursday comes from the Community Project Funding, secured by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. Federal dollars are sent via the state for distribution to local governments, with TxDOT passing along the funds to the city.
The cap and stitch program is being overseen by Our Future 35, a program led by the city’s Corridor Program Office. Michelle Marx, program manager for Our Future 35, previously told KXAN in September these caps and stitches could help reconnect downtown with east Austin.
Our Future 35 has said this could be a means of helping redress geographic and racial barriers imposed by I-35 on east Austin. What was previously East Avenue, I-35’s construction segregated the Eastern Crescent from the downtown corridor.
“This is certainly a generational opportunity for us in our city,” she said. “No matter where you live in the city, I think this is going to impact you.”