Future of I-35: TxDOT proposes free HOV lanes through downtown Austin

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Transportation officials will host a virtual public scoping meeting Thursday to gather input on its $4.9 billion Interstate 35 Capital Express Central Project stretching eight miles from U.S. Highway 290 East to SH 71/Ben White Boulevard.

“As we look to make improvements to I-35 we want to make improvements that will last for many years to come and that means adding some capacity there and adding capacity in a smart way,” Diann Hodges, a TxDOT spokesperson said.

The transportation department is proposing two non-tolled HOV-managed lanes in each direction. There are three concept designs they are asking the public for feedback on. The first design would take the free HOV lanes underground.

The second and third concepts are similar — both would lower the mainlanes and the HOV lanes would run alongside.

All three designs call for removal of I-35’s upper deck.

“I like the view from the upper deck, I like being able to see all the businesses around here,” Allison Roeder, co-manager of Stars Cafe said. “I would probably be a little sad to see it go but I’m excited to see how it’s going to change and what the pros and cons will be with this new highway design.”

Roeder said I-35 and its feeders can get confusing for those visiting the Stars Cafe, formerly known as Star Seeds. The diner is located at the corner of I-35 Frontage Road and 31St Street.

“I get people calling, asking how to get here a bunch, having to navigate,” she said. “It can be confusing for customers because you have to go and make a U-Turn if you’re going north and then come all the way down or if you’re going south you have to make a U-Turn, too.”

The project will also add additional flyovers at I-35 and US 290 East. Other improvements include work to ramps, bridges, intersections and frontage roads, as well as shared-use paths.

TxDOT and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization will fund the project. Construction is expected to start in late 2025.

The virtual meeting begins at 5 p.m. Thursday. The public has through Dec. 12 to comment.

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