AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Transportation kicks off Wednesday a multi-year project designed to enhance mobility and ease congestion levels along Loop 360 in west Austin, with a couple new underpasses.

The Loop 360 at Westlake Drive/Cedar Street project breaks ground Wednesday, a $72.1 million investment courtesy TxDOT and the city of Austin’s 2016 mobility bond. The improvements begin along Loop 360 near the Bold Ruler Way intersection before heading north toward the highway’s intersection at Plaza on the Lake.

The Westlake Drive/Cedar Street project is the first of five from TxDOT’s Loop 360 program to begin construction, TxDOT spokesperson Brad Wheelis said.

Key features of the project include the removal of traffic signals at two intersections (Westlake Drive and Cedar Street) and the excavation of underpasses at each intersection for main lane traffic. These main lanes will travel under the bridges at cross streets to allow a continuous flow of traffic, he said.

TxDOT will also add non-signalized U-turns at Westlake Drive, north- and southbound frontages roads at both intersections and shared use paths.

The goal for the project is to not only ease congestion woes but also help minimize safety risks at these cross intersections, Wheelis said.

“When you have these underpasses and you’re not stopping at a traffic signal, then traffic keeps flowing. And the traffic that needs to stop at Westlake will exit and then take a frontage road to the intersection,” he said. “It will also improve safety in that you don’t have the condition there — that could be a T-bone crash for traffic that moves out from a traffic signal.”

Loop 360 is one of few true north-south corridors along Austin’s west side, Wheelis said, joined by RM 620 and MoPac Expressway. With the region’s massive population growth in recent years, Wheelis added it’s a critical corridor for both local west Austin traffic along with commuter traffic from the northwestern suburbs.

While the immediate need for traffic relief is pressing, he added these larger-scale initiatives also factor in forward-looking metrics to anticipate what growth needs will be decades down the road.

“When we’re in the design room, we’re not looking at how do we solve the problem today. We’re looking at 10, 20 years out, and will this hold up,” Wheelis said. “And we believe it will.”

TxDOT and the city partnered with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to utilize their growth formulas in transportation development planning. CAMPO collects data such as business and residential growth, as well as the number of new residents relocating to Austin when planning for roadway improvements.

“In the Austin area, it’s probably tough to over-build because we have so much traffic and we’re trying to keep up with the infrastructure,” he said. “So it’s unlikely that we would build something that would not be utilized to its full potential.”