December 29, 2020
Executive Director, Texas Department of Transportation
Dewitt C. Greer State Highway Building
125 East 11th Street
Austin, TX 78701-2483
RE: I-35 Capital Express Central Project
Dear Mr. Bass,
Thank you for your commitment to redesigning and improving I-35. This project is long-awaited and critical for our constituents’ local travel, as well as for state, national, and international commerce. The key to a successful future I-35 corridor is maximizing capacity and throughput, balanced with community impact, local mobility, and connectivity.
As we reimagine the I-35 corridor for the Austin of 2020 and beyond, we first must right the wrongs of I-35 of the 1970s. The upper decks in our city’s center have divided East Austin from West Austin; low-income communities from the more affluent; and, in particular, people of color from white citizens for decades. A thoughtful lowering of downtown and the decks will allow a “restitching” of East and West Austin that is long overdue.
Transit access to Central Austin is key to achieving the stated goal of creating more dependable and consistent travel. While we are glad the proposal allows transit to travel in the managed lanes, transit priority or direct access ramps are essential to maximizing the ridership potential in the corridor and managing congestion to the extent possible. With voters’ overwhelming passage of Project Connect in November, Austinites have expressed loudly and clearly the desire for greater access to efficient transit across our region. TxDOT has completed creative and transit-supportive projects such as constructing an elevated bus-only lane to directly connect into a park and ride in Houston, and we urge you to provide similar creative assets for our region.
Congestion mitigation during construction must receive thorough consideration and sustained substantial funding to complete the project to ensure mobility through the corridor. Early and frequent communication with the public regarding what, when, and where to expect construction and interrupted access is essential, coupled with ensuring continued access to North/South lanes within the corridor during rush hours, and supporting and encouraging alternatives to single-occupancy driving, including telework, public transit, or carpooling.
As the project development continues, we must set high expectations for the backbone of our state’s transportation network and create an I-35 that serves Austin’s unique needs. We urge a thorough analysis of multiple design scenarios, alternative growth forecasts, and travel demand models to ensure this project can be a shining star for Texas that improves mobility and facilitates a safe and efficient operating environment for all modes in the corridor — for both our Central Texas constituents and those passing through.
Sen. Sarah Eckhardt Sen. Judith Zaffirini
Rep. Celia Israel
Rep. Sheryl Cole
Rep. Donna Howard
Rep. John Bucy III
Rep. Gina Hinojosa
Rep. James Talarico