AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council approved Thursday submitting a federal grant application for construction funding assistance with its Our Future 35 Cap and Stitch program.
Council approved the item on consent, meaning no additional discussion was held prior to the vote. Council’s approval directs Interim City Manager Jesús Garza to submit the grant application to the United States Department of Transportation.
The funding is made available through the U.S. DOT’s Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program. That federal program aims to prioritize projects that assist disadvantaged communities, facilitate equitable development and restoration as well as “reconnecting communities by removing, retrofitting, or mitigating highways or other transportation facilities that create barriers to community connectivity, including to mobility, access, or economic development.”
Our Future 35’s construction grant application will request $105.2 million in funds to help cover caps from East Cesar Chavez to Fourth Streets, in addition to the City of Austin’s match of $45 million. In total, Phase 1 of the construction would amount to $150.2 million, per city documents.
Caps serve as deck plazas to can host parks, community spaces or other public amenities over sunken portions of I-35, as planned in the Texas Department of Transportation’s I-35 Capital Express Central project. TxDOT released its final environmental impact statement on the project in August, with a projected construction start date in mid-2024.
While TxDOT’s I-35 expansion plan incorporates widened cross streets, or stitches, across the lowered highway, funding for the deck plazas was not incorporated in the project’s $4.5 billion cost. Back in February, TxDOT officials told city leaders they had until fall 2024 to identify $350 million in funding sources to build out its Our Future 35 Cap and Stitch program.
The city was previously awarded a $1.12 million planning grant from the U.S. DOT’s Reconnecting Communities Program.