Imagine turning Austin’s greatest barrier—I-35—into Austin’s greatest connector. Great Streets connecting across the freeway, on bridges so wide you hardly notice the traffic underneath. Frontage roads that function as city streets, comfortable for bicyclists and pedestrians. A reconstituted grid that breaks through downtown’s ring of congestion, providing transit facilities and options for all needs.
We present: Great Streets. Great Bridges. Great Connections.
When the main lanes are depressed, structures will be put in place to support a future cap over the freeway. As a City initiative, Phase 2 will entail a full cap, with even better connections and amenities.
Two crucial press releases came out of the TxDOT offices at the end of last week. Both address East/West connectivity in the I-35 corridor, and show positive movement towards solving neighborhood issues.
“To that end, TxDOT is asking for feedback from stakeholders living in neighborhoods adjacent to the roadway. … Information gathered from the survey will be used by the project team to better understand east/west connectivity issues and other special concerns of the neighborhoods.”
The second major announcement was a direct result of neighborhood feedback on TxDOT’s Implementation Plan over the past few months:
“In response to stakeholder concerns regarding the initial proposals, TxDOT, in partnership with the city of Austin, has worked to develop alternative concepts that address the neighborhoods’ needs for east/west connectivity while also satisfying mobility needs within the corridor. As a result, TxDOT is pleased to announce Woodland Avenue and St. Johns Avenue are to remain open to vehicle traffic and closure is no longer under consideration.
“The refined concepts [for Woodland and St. John’s] can be found atwww.mobility35.org/solutions. The revised concepts will be reflected in the planned 2014 update to the Mobility 35 Plan.”
March 6, 2014—This morning, the Austin City Council approved on consent (6-0) a resolution to re-focus the City’s I-35 efforts to follow the tenets of Imagine Austin and preserve crucial east-west connections across the freeway. The resolution—penned by CM Chris Riley and co-sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and CM Laura Morrison—follows neighborhood push-back against TxDOT’s proposal to close the Woodland Avenue underpass. This closure is part of the larger Capital Area Improvement Program, a Texas Department of Transportation plan to improve the I-35 corridor from SH-45N to SH-45SE. In central Austin, these improvements could include the closure of six cross-streets, as well as all entrance and exit ramps through the lower decks.
The City Council has received letters of support for this resolution from the Pedestrian Advisory Council (PAC) and the Design Commission, as well as residents of central Austin neighborhoods. The PAC expressed concern for pedestrian access, comfort, and safety in a corridor that already holds Austin’s record for most pedestrian fatalities.
Reconnect Austin is a group of volunteers encouraging TxDOT to consider local needs as a priority in freeway improvement projects. Reconnect Austin educates Austin residents about these possibilities, and provides support for community advocacy.