After World War II, the United States began experimenting with and implementing our interstate highway system. While Europe built highways to cities, we built highways right through the heart of them. 60 years later, we have enough data to take a hard look at the impacts of those highways that pass through cities. Now we can start working on mitigating the harmful effects. As Peter Parks asks, “Who would like a highway through their neighborhood?”
Highways depress property values and the future value creation potential of real estate. Reconnect Austin advocates for a sunken, sustainable highway that creates real economic value. After it is below-grade, we believe it should be entirely covered with a cap, creating new tax base for the City of Austin. Furthermore, our cut-and-cap proposal will help leverage many of the investments that have already been made in what we term Austin’s “Opportunity Corridor.”
When Mayor Leffingwell’s office talks about the planned Innovation District, they refer to Waller Creek as “the soul of this area.” The Waller Creek Conservancy itself is working to connect Austin’s various districts, Technology, Creative Arts and Health, all along a linear world-class park. You can see from this map how I-35 impacts these districts, reducing the rate of return on the $148 million the city has invested in Waller Creek.
Downtown Austin is the economic engine of the Central Texas Region. Currently under construction are:
- 1.43 million square feet of office and retail;
- units for 8,620 residents;
- and over 3,000 hotel rooms.
Keep in mind these numbers do not include projects still in the permitting pipeline.
Reconnect Austin proposes that TxDOT addresses 2nd St. and 3rd St. so that they cross I-35. By reconnecting 2nd St., hotel guests would arrive at the hotel’s entrance (2nd and Red River) more easily. With 3rd St. connected, delivery trucks servicing the Convention Center would be able to directly access the loading docks. This would help alleviate congestion on Chavez, 2nd and Red River.
Another example of a project that will soon be occurring is Capital Metro’s Plaza Saltillo Development.
On May 19, 2014, Capital Metro narrowed the competing developer teams for the Plaza Saltillo redevelopment project from four to two. It will make its final decision on a developer on June 23. Both proposals include dense urban housing and a mix of uses appropriate for a transit oriented development. Whichever developer is chosen, this investment will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Reconnect Austin proposes that TxDOT connects 5th St. across I-35 so that downtown is more accessible for residents and visitors alike.
TxDOT must rebuild this section of I-35.
Austin needs all of its grid back to make downtown function as efficiently as possible, breaking the ring of congestion that is keeping it from achieving its full potential.