Reconnect Austin is a grassroots campaign to bury I-35 through the urban core of Austin (Lady Bird Lake to Airport Blvd.) and repurpose this vital corridor as public space and developable land. Our vision is to create a new, humanized boulevard, reconnecting central neighborhoods to Downtown, State Capitol Complex, and UT Austin, all while mitigating air and water pollution, and providing an economic boost in the form of new, centrally located housing and businesses.
IMPORTANT PROJECT UPDATE
In a public meeting on January 25, 2022, TxDOT released an updated project alternative called Modified Alternative 3. This was in response to the over 9,500 comments TxDOT received over the course of Scoping in 2020 and 2021. Mod Alt 3 has the main lanes of I-35 depressed and the surface-level frontage roads pulled to one side of the highway, running in parallel as an “urban boulevard” through downtown Austin. Next to the “boulevard” is open space above the main lanes of the highway which could be capped, though decisions regarding capping are being left to the City of Austin. While Mod Alt 3 does not represent the entirety of Reconnect Austin’s vision for I-35, it does show great strides towards a better project, and we are encouraged by the design possibilities for the “boulevard.” With slow design speeds, protected bike and pedestrian infrastructure, street trees and furniture, and so forth, the combined frontage roads could start to feel like a regular city street.
TxDOT will be moving forward with Alternative 2 and Modified Alternative 3. These two project alternatives will be evaluated compared to a No Build Scenario in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, expected release date early 2023. Comments and feedback on Mod Alt 3 can be submitted to TxDOT via email at email@example.com.
More information about this project and its recent history can be found here.
“The removal of freeways in cities today is less a matter of technical limitations and more a matter of pragmatic response, community aspiration, and political will.”
I-35 IS THE MOST CONGESTED, DANGEROUS, AND UNHEALTHY CORRIDOR IN TEXAS.
It traps commuters in an average of 87 hours of traffic a year.
It was responsible for 22% of traffic fatalities in 2018.
It serves as a physical barrier between East and West Austin.
It is home to the worst air quality in the city.
It is not compatible with the long-term vision for Austin.
WE CANNOT BUILD OUR WAY OUT OF CONGESTION.
Adding lanes to existing roads creates an induced demand – more lanes attract more drivers; more drivers mean just as much or even more congestion.
2008’s Katy Freeway expansion took 3 years to complete and cost $2.8 billion. It added 3 extra lanes to Houston’s stretch of I-10. The result? A 30% increase in travel time.
CONSIDER WHAT WE GIVE UP WHEN WE BUILD MASSIVE HIGHWAYS THROUGH CITIES.
WE CAN RECLAIM DOWNTOWN BY BURYING AND CAPPING I-35.
With the highway below ground and access points placed in the cap, our street grid can be stitched back together, providing better traffic dispersion and more connections for biking and walking.
A full cap of the sunken highway is vital to shifting the frontage roads in and placing them on the cap. The shift would free 30 acres of new land for affordable housing.
The new boulevard would be a quality public space; safer and more comfortable for all users with more open spaces, trees and landscaping.
I-35’s current location is the ideal corridor for high-capacity transit. Stations downtown would connect the underground interstate and the street above with buses and light rail.
The worst air quality in Austin tracks I-35. A new tunnel ventilation system would scrub pollutants from the air, and new trees above ground would help mitigate CO2 emissions, improve water filtration, and reduce heat islands.