NCINC – Letter to TxDOT 09/21

Marc D. Williams
Executive Director
Texas Department of Transportation
125 East 11th Street
Austin, Texas 78701

Susan Fraser, P.E., CFM
I-35 Program Manager
Texas Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 15426
Austin, Texas 78761-5426

Tucker Ferguson, P.E.
North Austin Area Engineer
Texas Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 15426
Austin, Texas 78761-5425

Lynda Rife
1608 West 6th Street
Austin, Texas 78703

24 September 2021

Dear Mr. Williams, Mrs. Fraser, Mr. Ferguson and Mrs. Rife,

Over the past year and through the current public comment period for the Capitol Express Central project, the North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition has continued our work sharing information about IH-35 plans with central Austin residents and businesses and acting on behalf of our member neighborhoods in providing feedback to TxDOT on this important project.

We reiterate our support for the removal of the upper decks and lowering of main lanes through much of the Central Segment. These design elements represent an improvement over the existing IH-35 that will improve the quality of life for nearby residents.

However, representatives of our member neighborhoods have broadly agreed that the plans as provided do too little to address and mitigate the negative impacts of the expansion of IH-35 on central Austin neighborhoods. Of particular concern to our members is the exorbitant acquisition of property within our member neighborhoods. We are also disappointed to see the “decks” area of the Central Segment not receive the same level of innovation that is being discussed in the downtown area. TxDOT has provided design solutions that do not respond appropriately to the current urban character of central Austin neighborhoods. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to recreate IH-35 in a manner that supports walkable, safe, and attractive neighborhoods and better connects neighborhoods to each other, and the two design alternatives remaining under consideration fall short of this goal.

We repeat our frustration that the public comment periods and engagement are insufficient for a project of this scale and impact on adjacent communities. As of this writing, only four of our twelve member neighborhoods have been able to provide formal feedback during this public comment period. We were also surprised at District Engineer Ferguson’s recent remark to the Travis County Commissioner’s Court that TxDOT has engaged with local residents on trade-offs of removing the upper decks; NCINC has not been invited to participate in any such discussions of trade-offs, though we would welcome the opportunity to do so.

As presented, the project TxDOT has brought to the public will inflict avoidable harm on north central neighborhoods and does not address repeated requests to better connect neighbors and mitigate the impact of IH-35 on nearby residents. The benefits of this investment in IH-35 are outweighed by the shortcomings of current plans to address the reasonable needs and requests of our member neighborhoods.

Therefore, NCINC does not endorse or support Alternatives 2 or 3 in their current form. We formally request that TxDOT immediately engage specifically with our member neighborhoods through NCINC to create a forum for a dialogue on design alternatives and potential trade-offs that support our community needs for this project.

Sincerely yours,

Brendan Wittstruck, Chair
North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition (NCINC)