- Interstate 35
- Austin, TX
- Since it replaced Austin’s historic East Avenue, I-35 has been an economic, social, cultural, and racial barrier. Now, the highway’s bridges through the urban core of Austin are over 50 years old, necessitating reconstruction. This is the most congested highway section in Texas, carrying 200,000 cars a day through America’s Fastest Growing City (according to the Forbes measure of population and economy).
As a NAFTA corridor, I-35 cannot simply be removed. However, one must recognize its immense impact on downtown, and the unique urgency of this moment, in which TxDOT is moving forward on improvements all along the Central Texas I-35 corridor.
A proposal has come forward to lower the main lanes of this one mile stretch of I-35, cover that mile with a continuous cap, and place a city boulevard on top. The at-grade boulevard would be reconnected to the surface cross streets and the land where the frontage roads now sit would be converted to developable land…This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remove Austin’s historic blight and reconnect the city.
- Reconnect Austin (www.reconnectaustin.com) is a volunteer effort to catalyze a community conversation regarding the future of I-35.
We here at Reconnect Austin couldn’t relay this sentiment any better than the Observation Deck‘s Adam Rogers does:
“Tear it all down!
“Well, OK, not all of it. Let’s start with the freeways. They look permanent, sure, but most highways, especially the ones cutting through city centers, aren’t that old — only a few decades. And in some towns, they do more harm than good. They don’t decrease traffic, they cut sterile swaths through once-vibrant neighborhoods (or cut parts of the city off from what could be useful public spaces). So how about we all make like San Francisco, or Boston, or Seoul, and tear down the freeways we don’t need.
“This week on Observation Deck I’m thinking about what could happen if we tear up some of those ribbons of roads and start over again. We might end up with better cities”…To view the movie, please click here.
“The Texas Department of Transportation has also taken note of the problems with 35, noting that the design of this highway causes decreased speeds and increased congestion. Something has to be done, and the two plans TxDOT proposes include one conventional solution (simply updating the current infrastructure) and one new solution (creating a depression for traffic lanes from 8th Street to Holly Street).
“Doing a conventional update on the highway would just be more of the same. Depressing the lanes is a good start, but then you have wasted space at street level. The Reconnect Austin plan proposes to actually bury those depressed lanes, creating more “people space” where car space used to be. When this was done in Boston, the “capped” area became public park space. It’s a beautiful promenade of sorts that runs through the middle of the city. People sit on the benches or get some exercise during their lunch breaks.
“In addition to the additional green space, the cut and cap option would also provide more developable land that’s now consumed by on and off ramps. Reconnect Austin says 30 acres of frontage road could be turned into prime real estate for businesses, restaurants and homes. As more people see what can be created when we replace concrete structures with green space and people-focused space, maybe more people will be encouraged to get out of their cars and exist in that space.”
Click here to read the full article: Stephanie Myers, “I-35 Cut and Cap is Good for Austin,” Austin Post, September 5, 2013