AUSTIN (KXAN) — More congestion is coming to a spot in south Austin that sees slowdowns every day as the Texas Department of Transportation starts work on a major project on Interstate 35 in the area.
“It’s really inconvenient, especially because I-35 is the main highway to get from point A to point B,” said Mickey Capello, a law student at St. Mary’s University who drives I-35 from Austin to San Antonio five days a week.
“I have two and a half more years of driving to San Antonio, and I-35 is just laughing at me because it knows I have to take you, you’re my one route,” Capello said.
On Tuesday, TxDOT broke ground on the I-35 Capital Express South Project.
“The growth of our region has necessitated this type of expansion and reconstruction of our highway, so we have balanced out the needs of all of the users,” Tucker Ferguson, a TxDOT Austin district engineer, said.
I-35 hasn’t gone through a major upgrade since the mid-1970s. Since then, the population of Austin has gone from about 300,000 to well over 2 million.
In the background at the groundbreaking, you could not only hear the sound of traffic on the highway but protestors from Rethink35, a group suing to stop this project.
“We all agree perhaps the only thing that Rethink35 agrees with TxDOT is that I-35 is a problem. But widening roads makes traffic worse. The only solution when you have congestion is to provide alternatives to driving that are congestion free, such as public transportation, bus lanes, trains, bus rapid transit, bicycling and walking,” said Adam Greenfield, the executive director of Rethink35.
But for now, TxDOT is moving full steam ahead with adding two HOV lanes to I-35 from SH 45 to Highway 71, bypass lanes at William Cannon and Stassney and new bridges that will make east-west traffic improvements.
Though Capello will be done with law school by the time the project wraps up in 2028, she’s hopeful for the future.
“I cannot wait to find a day when maybe like, cars fly and we don’t need this construction anymore. Maybe there’s like, an air version of I-35. I’m down for it,” she said.