MNA – Letter to TxDOT 09/21

Mueller Neighborhood Association
PO Box 49123
Austin, TX 78765

September 21, 2021

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

Dear TxDOT,

The Mueller Neighborhood Association of residents of the Mueller Community, a fast-growing 711-acre mixed use commercial/residential development directly adjacent to I35 near Airport Boulevard offers the following feedback on the I-35 Capital Express Central project.

TxDOT has invited public comment on the I-35 Capital Express Central project, but the two Alternatives that will be carried forward for detailed analysis do not respond to community input that this organization has submitted previously, nor to input that North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition (NCINC), of which we are members, has submitted. This leads us to oppose TxDOT’s current process as unresponsive; and we do not support TxDOT carrying Alternatives 2 and 3 into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement because:

  • The metric of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is not mentioned or utilized apparently; and the Imagine Austin goal of reducing VMT’s is thus necessarily not achieved.
  • Expanding I-35 to 20 lanes will induce more than 100,000 additional vehicle trips per day through the center of Austin–increasing emissions, degrading air quality, exacerbating human health conditions such as asthma, and ignoring Austin’s Community Climate Plan target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • Expanding I-35 to 20 lanes will result in at least 142 displacements–more than a third of which are minority or low-income–and consume up to 32 acres of central Austin, reducing the City’s ability to fund essential services through property taxes.
  • Alternatives 2 and 3 are practically identical; meanwhile, Alternative 1, which would have kept TxDOT’s promise of “no wider and no higher”, has been removed from study before the public could even comment on it.
  • Neither Alternative treats central Austin neighborhoods as having the same walkable character as downtown: for example, no new crossings in north central Austin that would connect communities, improve accessibility, and allow safe crossings where people need them are proposed (except for an awkward pedestrian bridge near the existing Target in Capitol Plaza; and the unimaginably complex Airport Boulevard intersection – see below).
  • Neither Alternative provides physical protection for pedestrians and bicyclists on sidewalks shown immediately adjacent on frontage roads (up to four lanes wide – which encourage excessive speed). They also show raised and tunneled crossings that impair accessibility, lengthen walking distances, and create indefensible and unattractive places for people who aren’t in vehicles.
  • Pedestrian and bicycle crossings of I-35 at Airport Boulevard have been very difficult for decades and the proposed design fails to improve the situation. The at-grade intersection design proposed at Airport Boulevard with the I-35 frontage roads, as stated above, is unimaginably complex, and clearly favors the ease and speed of vehicular maneuvers above all else, especially pedestrians and bicyclists (with at grade crossings across free-flow ramps and absent pedestrian refuge when crossing multiple lanes). It would also be extremely confusing and complex for pedestrians with vision impairment. This entire intersection design is unacceptable as presented.

We sincerely hope that the I-35 Capital Express Central project will receive community input and respond with revised Alternatives that meet City of Austin goals (including the Climate Equity Plan), and that we, as an affected neighborhood, can support. Finally, if the No-Build Alternative is the unfortunate necessary choice, while adequate funding sources to achieve desired community preferences and features (that TxDOT will not fund) put forth in community plans, that is preferred to either Alternative 2 or 3 being advance further.

Sincerely,

Mueller Neighborhood Association