Austin Interstate Expansion Plan Draws Opposition

A proposal to widen I-35 has drawn criticism from community members who want to see the city shift away from car-centric development.

September 15, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial Texas Hill Country at sunset, with an aerial view of a highway interchange and Interstate 35 in Austin, Texas.

Roschetzky Photography / Shutterstock

Austinites are engaged in a heated debate over the Capital Express Project, a controversial "$7.5 billion plan to expand the abhorred stretch of I-35 that snakes through the center of Austin" by adding two levels of tunnels and adding several new lanes. As reported by David Leffler, transportation advocates argue that the plan is "the blueprint for an ineffective, outdated strategy that would only spur sprawl" and induce more traffic and car-centric development. "If allowed to move forward, TxDOT’s proposed expansion will engulf nearly 150 homes and businesses along the interstate."

Opponents of the expansion plan have proposed several alternatives. "For context, there are three community-drawn proposals that would limit the highway’s existing footprint, downsize it to an urban boulevard, or even incorporate Klyde Warren–inspired green spaces, but the state has shown little interest in entertaining them."

Yet just two years ago, "Austin voters approved a $7 billion mass transit bond," signaling that "residents don't want bigger highways." Austin Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison says city leaders must "understand that [the project] will impact so many core aspects of our city’s future" and "make a careful, informed, and thoughtful decision." Harper-Madison encourages residents to participate in TxDOT's public comment period "because transportation touches so many parts of our daily lives, from the way we explore our cities and the neighbors we live nearby to our ability to connect with people from different communities, income levels, and cultures."

Tuesday, September 7, 2021 in Texas Signal


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