AUSTIN (KXAN) The Texas Department of Transportation will host a meeting Thursday night to discuss the I-35 Capital Express Central Project, hoping to get public input on expansion plans through the downtown corridor.

TxDOT’s preferred alternative plan would widen the major highway for a stretch of eight miles in the heart of Austin.

Other design features include two lowered high-occupancy vehicle lanes, boulevard-looking frontage roads and the removal of I-35’s upper decks.

The state agency projects the population in Austin to double by 2045. This would result in many more cars on the roadways.

TxDOT Spokesperson Brad Wheelis believes that action must be made sooner rather than later.

“We always compare the preferred alternative to doing nothing,” he said. “If we do nothing, congestion will get much worse.”

According to TxDOT, the purpose of the project is to mitigate congestion, improve mobility and enhance safety.

Now through March 7th, residents can review the documents and leave feedback on the proposed changes.

“This is a community driven project,” Wheelis said. “We’ve spoken with 18,000 community members and counting now. Some of the project design is a direct result of that feedback that we’ve heard.”

Austin City Councilmember José “Chito” Vela emphasized the importance of hearing feedback on these proposed changes.

“We want a project that mitigates the damage that I-35 has done, reconnects Austin and eliminates the highway as a as a barrier,” he said.

Although the District 4 councilmember does not support expanding I-35, he’s advocating for measures such as capping — building a deck bridge on top of a controlled-access highway —and increasing pedestrian crossings.

TxDot told KXAN that a finalized decision on project design and scope will come in August, with construction starting as early as mid-2024. The $4.5 billion expansion plan could be complete in 2033.

Thursday’s meeting will take place from 5-7 p.m. at Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in east Austin.