September 17, 2021
Executive Director, Texas Department of Transportation
Dewitt C. Greer State Highway Building
125 East 11th Street
Austin, TX 78701-2483
Dear Director Williams,
Thank you for your continued work and commitment to improving the I-35 corridor through Greater Austin. This project is a critical opportunity to address the many equity, safety, and capacity concerns that Central Texas has endured for decades.
We write you as a group of state legislators whose constituents and districts are impacted by changes being proposed to I-35 this year. We have been struggling with this design for more than a generation, and various factors have stalled those changes. Now we are presented with two very similar plans that, unfortunately, do not emphasize the need to prioritize transit, safety, or fully unite East and West Austin.
Throughout a series of public comment solicitations, overwhelming public support has been given to an I-35 that is limited in width and in height, promotes transit throughputs over single occupancy vehicles, and prioritizes safety. As you move forward with future plans for I-35, we would encourage your thoughtful further review of a significantly different alternative from the two presented, as the need is great to right the wrongs of an unsafe and divided I-35.
With community interests in mind, we urge you to narrow the footprint reflected in the two design alternatives. We must take into account the diverse businesses and residences that would be impacted by this expanded footprint and acknowledge that more lanes do not equal less congestion. The widened design as presented raises new safety and environmental concerns that must be addressed thoughtfully as the project moves forward. As much as feasible, we must bridge the current divide and minimize the project’s footprint by exploring
opportunities to develop the HOV and main lanes below surface level with frontage roads at level.
Recent census data confirmed what we all know—our Central Texas region is growing at an explosive rate. Over the last decade alone, the City of Austin population grew by 21 percent, more than 170,000 new residents. Beyond this figure, we know that the regional growth is not stopping anytime soon as we expect to double in size by 2040.
At this transformative time for our region, we must make the most effective use of I-35’s limited corridor and look at all strategies possible to improve throughput, limit the physical divide between East and West Austin, and utilize safe design principals to adhere to TxDOT’s Road to Zero goals.
Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, Senate District 14
Rep. Celia Israel, House District 50
Rep. Gina Hinojosa, House District 49
Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, House District 51
Sen. Judith Zaffrini, Senate District 21
Rep. Sheryl Cole, House District 46
Rep. Donna Howard, House District 48