AUSTIN (KXAN) — The proposal to expand and transform Interstate 35 through downtown Austin has raised some questions. City leaders said it doesn’t do enough for walking, biking and transit.
“This highway, for so long, has not only been a physical barrier but a socioeconomic barrier too,” said Paige Ellis, District 8’s council member and chair of the mobility committee. “It’s very hard for people to get through different parts of Austin with the highway in the condition that it’s in right now, so I think people really want to see something that makes it easier to access education and jobs and I think this is our moment to get that right.”
In a letter sent to the Texas Department of Transportation, Austin’s transportation department is asking for additional initiatives including safety measures, extra consideration for transit, more ways to keep people, bikes and buses moving, as well as improving east to west connections. ATD is also requesting TxDOT consider noise impacts for neighborhoods.
The letter also proposes TxDOT make the two proposed free HOV lanes into toll lanes in an effort to keep transit moving and out of the congestion of the lanes.
The Bicycle Advisory Council and Pedestrian Advisory Council met Monday in a joint meeting to share their concerns.
“I-35 is the highway that everyone loves to hate, but people aren’t always sure what to do about it. This is our moment to finally address the harms caused by I-35,” Adam Greenfield, vice chair for Pedestrian Advisory Council said.
In a presentation to the Texas Transportation Commission two weeks ago, TxDOT’s Austin District Engineer Tucker Ferguson laid out their plans for I-35, which include reviewing the Central I-35 proposal.
He said they’re working to improve east-to-west connections and enhance safety as well as bicycle, pedestrian and transit options.
In a statement, TxDOT officials said:
We appreciate the City of Austin’s and all public comments regarding our I-35 Capital Express Central project. We will continue to work closely with the city, as we have for the past several years, to make this project a success for everyone involved.TxDOT