Interstate 35 through downtown Austin earns study’s distinction as most congested road in Texas

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Probably no driver in Austin will be surprised to learn that a new study identified the most congested road in Texas as Interstate 35 through downtown.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) released its findings Tuesday, which labeled I-35 from U.S. Highway 290 North to S.H. 71/Ben White Boulevard as the busiest stretch of freeway in the entire state. It replaced the West Loop of I-610 in Houston, which held the top spot for the past two years.

Rounding out the top five busiest roads in the state are Houston’s Southwest Freeway (I-69), Dallas’ Woodall Rodgers Freeway and the Eastex Freeway (1-69) in Houston.

According to a news release, the organization only evaluated conditions through 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic created shutdowns and reduced congestion earlier this year. TTI creates its rankings after using traffic volumes and speed date to measure congestion on roads.

The Texas Department of Transportation announced earlier this summer that leaders are specifically looking at this stretch of I-35 through downtown Austin as an area in need of improvements. The state agency is gathering input on its $4.9 billion Interstate 35 Capital Express Central Project.

The transportation department is proposing two non-tolled, HOV-managed lanes in each direction. They are asking for the public’s opinion on three concept designs.

The chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, J. Bruce Bugg, Jr., wrote in a statement Tuesday addressing the TTI ranking for I-35 that the state realizes it’s a problem area.

“Unfortunately, for drivers in central Texas, congestion on I-35 in Austin is now the worst choke point in the state. But relief is on the way since the Texas Transportation Commission recently included the I-35 Capital Express Project in TxDOT’s 10-year plan, that will advance project development and construction,” Bugg, Jr. said. “The I-35 Capital Express Project, which is a statewide strategic priority, underscores the need for continued investment in transportation so we can keep up with the continued growth that makes Texas one of the top places to live and do business.”

The news release from TTI stated causes for the congestion on Texas roads vary, but economic growth is perhaps the most common contributor. The organization is advocating for solutions to deal with this that include adding road and transit capacity, quickly clearing crashes, efficiently timing traffic signals and managing work zones.

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