Seven Steps to a Prosperous Future for Austin & Central Texas

Proposed by Sinclair Black FAIA

Following is a list of the elements that would improve the overall design of a reinvented I-35 corridor. These seven steps are a response to TxDOT’s stated request “What would you recommend to improve the design?”

  1. Sink the main lanes from south of Holly St. to the north of Airport Blvd. in a narrower ROW of 204 f.t. (See detailed section drawing from Reconnect Austin)
  2. Combine the frontage roads into one 2-way, tree-lined boulevard and place it directly above the main lanes below. Remove all truck traffic from the urban core to SH130. NOTE: This was recommended by a previous TxDOT study.
  3. Provide two “collector-distributor lanes” below grade to replace high-speed ramps and the frontage roads that do more to divide the city than anything else. The inside lane becomes a “bypass” lane as needed. The outside lane leads directly to “portal ramps”.
  4. Provide portal ramps to and from all major east/west existing streets. Ramps are in two segments. First, a short ramp that rises +/- halfway to the surface to a right-hand turn to another ramp that rises to the street level. The second ramp exits to the existing east/west street about one half a block away from the boulevard much like typical entrance/exit movements in an underground parking garage.
  5. “Future proof” the corridor by providing a 70 ft. median at grade as a linear park and an “urban forest” to fight global warming. Below grade is a 70 ft. median to be used for parking, emergency vehicles, and north and south rail corridors in the future. The ever-growing problem of congestion in the 3 counties of Central Texas can only be solved by a robust commitment to commuter rail service at the centerline of the I-35 corridor through Williamson, Travis, and Hays counties.
  6. The city reaches an agreement with TxDOT that separates responsibilities for the corridor and gives TxDOT rights to the underground main lanes if they build those lanes and provide a “city ready” cap above to allow the city to rebuild and repair all the damage left behind on the surface by previous TxDOT failures. Those failures are clearly documented by the current “purpose and need” statement supplied by TxDOT itself. This division of labor saves millions for TxDOT and allows the city to rebuild itself on the surface, in Austin’s own image.
  7. The city of Austin should move quickly to create a TIRZ zone to capture tax value.
  8. Additionally and at the same time, a Development Commission is created by the city to oversee the planning and implementation of a plan that benefits Austin and the region, a process much like the citizen-driven Project Connect.

This op-ed can be downloaded here.