December 31, 2020
I-35 Capital Express Central Project
Attn: Project Team
1608 W. 6th Street
Austin, TX 78703
RE: Capital Express Program Comments
As elected leaders in Austin and Travis County, we appreciate the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) and Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) full funding for the I-35 Capital Express North, Central, and South projects in the most recently approved Unified Transportation Program (UTP). We recognize that this funding could have been programmed for critical projects in other cities, and we thank you for providing Austin and Travis County with an opportunity for a safer, more efficient, and reliable I-35 to help achieve regional and local transportation goals.
We have collectively heard a variety of ideas, questions, and concerns from our constituents and community stakeholders regarding the Capital Express program, and provide the following comments that are applicable to all three projects.
These comments are in addition to the letter we have also signed and sent in from the City of Austin, which provides more detail on those recommendations.
Additional Factors Related to Meaningful Design Alternatives
In addition to the recommendations cited in our letter from the City of Austin, we propose that scoping fully consider a range of alternatives that match the wide array of community needs and which address the following:
- Compatibility with existing local plans and goals as they impact the I-35 corridor, including:
- Adopted Austin neighborhood plan impacting the I-35 corridor
- Austin Climate Goals, including as set forth in Austin City Council Resolution 20140410-024
- City of Austin Great Streets Master Plan and Street Design Guide
- COA Vision Zero Goals, Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, Austin Strategic Mobility Plan
- Consideration of previous design efforts, including ULI, Reconnect Austin, and Rethink 35 proposals
- Goals that focus on access and reducing vehicle miles traveled
- Economic cost accounting of impacts, including deaths and serious injuries, of the current I-35 configuration and of the various fully considered alternatives
- Furthering economic sustainability and reducing socioeconomic and cultural inequities, in collaboration with the City of Austin, by considering as part of design alternatives:
- Opportunities for tools such as value-capture programs to harness increased revenues from I-35 improvements to help protect historic and cultural resources, and prevent displacement
- Opportunities to evaluate how much land to use for mobility right-of-way and how much should be used for other uses such as affordable housing, local businesses, and public space
- Human and environmental health impacts, especially for nearby communities, to mitigate air quality
issues, flooding potential, noise, and other impacts.
Recommendations from Previous COA Letter:
- Improved Safety: With so much consensus regarding the need to reduce traffic fatalities, we believe the Purpose and Need statement should be revised to reflect safety as a priority.
- Increasing Person-Carrying Capacity: We recommend that the Purpose and Need statement be revised to reflect increasing person-carrying capacity as a priority, and the range of alternatives to be analyzed include the use of dynamic toll managed lanes with appropriate access for managed lanes to major trip generators in downtown and central Austin.
- Prioritize and Enhance Commuter Transit: We recommend that the Purpose and Need statement be revised to reflect enhancing commuter transit as a priority, and the range of alternatives to be analyzed include designs that allow for maximum efficiency of transit, including direct connector ramps for transit and park and ride facilities, and that are fully aligned with the Project Connect System Plan, including the planned park and ride in the vicinity of Slaughter Lane.
- Removing I-35 as a Physical and Social Barrier: We recommend that the Purpose and Need statement be revised to reflect removal of I-35 as a physical and social barrier as a priority, and the range of alternatives to be analyzed include designs that allow for decks to be added over depressed sections, which could serve as parks or opportunities to serve other community needs, thus further mitigating the negative effects of past transportation and land use decisions. We also recommend the range of alternatives to be analyzed include designs that offer options to eliminate and to minimize the construction of any new elevated sections along Capital Express South and Central Projects.
We thank the Commission and TxDOT staff for the commitment to this program of projects. We share the goal of maximizing the safety and effectiveness of our transportation system and appreciate your consideration of these comments.
Steve Adler, Mayor
Ann Kitchen, City Council D5
Paige Ellis, City Council D8