AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Transportation released the environmental impact statement (EIS) draft for its proposed Interstate 35 Capital Express Central project, giving a first look at how many residences and businesses could be impacted by the expansion.
The eight-mile project runs along I-35 from US 290 East to SH 71 and Ben White Boulevard. TxDOT has identified three proposal options for the project: a build alternative 2 design, a modified build alternative 3 design or foregoing the project altogether. Under the EIS, officials said the preferred version is the modified build alternative 3 design.
Under the selected proposal, project elements include:
- Two lowered high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and lowered main lanes each direction between Airport and Cesar Chavez Street and between Riverside Drive and Oltorf Street
- Single-point urban exchange (SPUI) at Airport Boulevard, Riverside Drive
- Pedestrian/bicycle-only bridge at Woodland Avenue
- Accommodations for CapMetro’s Project Connect Blue Line light rail system at East Riverside Drive
- Boulevard-like frontage road sections shifted east between Dean Keeton Street and 15th Street, and shifted west between 15th Street and Cesar Chavez Street
- Pedestrian/bicycle shared use crossings for east-west mobility
Construction on the selected proposal would cost approximately $4.5 billion, slightly more expensive than build alternative 2’s $4.45 billion sticker price. Under the selected modified build alternative 3 design, 107 businesses, residences and properties are marked for potential displacements.
Those 107 possible displacements break down into 69 commercial properties, 26 residential properties and 12 vacant properties. Of those 69 commercial properties, eight cater to specific populations that are non-white, Spanish speaking and/or service lower-income populations or children.
- CommUnityCare: David Powell Health Center: specializes in treatment of HIV and AIDs, providing services to lower-income populations or people who are uninsured
- CommUnityCare: Hancock Walk-In Care: provides medical services to general public, lower-income populations or those without medical insurance
- Pediatric Healthcare: children-centered medical care, located in the Austin Medical Building
- Dr. Emilio Torres: obstetrician and gynecologist serving children
- Escuelita del Alma: Spanish immersion preschool comprising two commercial parcels
- Jimmy’s Barbershop: barber services for Black and African American community members
- Hector’s Barbershop: Spanish-speaking barbershop
- The BL Barbershop: barber services for Black and African American community members
“Losing daycare and healthcare facilities within the Community Study Area is of concern for residents who may have difficulty finding replacement resources within the nearby area. The public involvement team is currently in the process of contacting community facilities that may potentially be displaced. TxDOT will continue to work with these facilities throughout the acquisition process and TxDOT is committed to working with these critical facilities to find alternate locations near their current locations, when possible. TxDOT is currently looking at providing advanced relocation assistance for selected properties to minimize impacts to underserved communities.”Texas Department of Transportation: I-35 Capital Express Central project’s environmental impact statement draft
TxDOT officials said in the draft approximately 625 jobs could be lost due to the displacement impacts on commercial properties. Officials said department members are working to contact businesses at risk of displacement to assist in the acquisition process.
For the 26 residential properties at risk of displacement, those include two single-family properties and 24 units in the Avalon Apartments. The 12 vacant properties under displacement risk include two unoccupied office spaces, six residential parcels, three unoccupied warehouse spaces and one vacated auto repair garage.
The majority of project displacements are concentrated in the Upper Boggy Creek, North Loop, Windsor Park and Hancock neighborhoods, per the document. Other impacted regions include the loss of two businesses downtown, the displacement of some auto sales and gas stations near East Cesar Chavez and the loss of Jimmy’s Barbershop in South River City.
Beyond that, there are 90 additional displacements earmarked in environmental justice (EJ) Census geographies. EJ geographies are areas where there’s a 50% or greater minority population, where the median household income is below the federal poverty level or the percentage of those experiencing poverty in that area is higher than the poverty level within Travis County. Not every person living in or operating a business in that area is necessarily a member of a minority population or a minority-owned business.
Compared to the alternative 2 version, the modified build alternative 3 proposal includes fewer properties at risk of displacement, along with EJ properties impacted. Alternative 2 would displace 291 properties and 172 EJ-area displacements, while the modified build alternative 3 version comes with a 107-property displacement risk and 90 additional EJ displacements.
TxDOT will host an in-person and virtual public hearing on the draft proposal on Feb. 9. The in-person hearing runs from 5-7 p.m. while the virtual version will be available at 5 p.m. Residents can weigh in and comment on the project through March 7.
The full EIS draft is available online for viewing.