DAA – Letter to TxDOT 09/21

September 20, 2021

I-35 Capital Express Central Project
Attn: Project Team
7901 N. I-35, Austin, TX 78753

Re: I-35 Capital Express Central Project—Downtown Austin Alliance Comments—Public Meeting

Dear Project Team,

As the managing entity for the Austin Downtown Public Improvement District, which was formed in 1993, the Downtown Austin Alliance leads and participates in a broad range of programs and initiatives that create, preserve, and enhance the value and vitality of downtown Austin. We represent over 900 property owners, and our downtown supports over 96,000 employees, 16,000 residents, 700 businesses.

We want to see this project move forward. The Downtown Austin Alliance is one of its biggest champions. We greatly appreciate all the hard work and collaboration that has led to TxDOT’s commitment to lower the highway’s main lanes, remove the upper decks, reduce frontage road design speeds, and accommodate highway caps and stitches.

The Downtown Austin Alliance has been working collaboratively with TxDOT, City staff and community stakeholders for over two years now to ensure that the $4.9B investment will result in lasting generational improvements for our community.

However, we still have critical concerns with TxDOT’s current alternatives for I-35. We want to see a narrower highway right-of-way in the central area and less displacement. Our report from the Urban Land Institute recommended cantilevering to help with this. We also want to see frontage roads that function like a central city boulevard rather than highway auxiliary lanes. We understand that getting to these goals will require some tradeoffs, such as with access and ramping.

We are committed to helping TxDOT and the City of Austin convene community members and stakeholders to develop solutions. We are also committed to identifying innovative ways to fund caps and stitches as part of the larger infrastructure project.

As you well know, our community is at a critical milestone with TxDOT’s I-35 Capital Express Central. At this point in the process, we urge you to support swift action toward a collaborative effort between city staff and TxDOT to identify new design options that can address our community’s concerns and move the project forward. We believe that highway narrowing, cantilevers and boulevard designs need to be on the table as design solutions for the entirety of the corridor.

Per our April 2021 comments, early and continuous communication on all construction-related matters is critical to mitigating construction impacts to the downtown. We would like to see a regional coordination effort to manage construction sequencing and to prevent traffic delays during peak travel times as both the I-35 and Project Connect efforts move forward. This is a not only a major infrastructure investment, but also an opportunity for our community and one that will have a legacy for decades to come. There is more work to do to get it right for Austin and we encourage TxDOT and the City of Austin to come together with the community to find a solution—it is too important not to.

Sincerely,

Dewitt Peart
President & CEO