Seven TxDOT Failures: A Disastrous Attempt to Re-build & Widen I-35

Proposed by Sinclair Black FAIA

TxDOT’s single-minded purpose deals only with moving cars while eliminating all other considerations for the welfare of the community. We can forgive TxDOT because we understand they are merely bureaucrats with a job. It is the national DOT & the FHWA that promote the failures by policy and the citizens of Austin pay.

  1. Failures of TxDOT to recognize that the economic development, i.e., billions of new tax base of the reinvented corridor is by far the most critical issue regarding Austin’s future. We know our economic development is not TxDOT’s job, but it certainly is ours.
  2. Throughout this 10-year process, TxDOT has remained recalcitrant. At first, refusing to consider community comments and slowly but reluctantly responding to public pressure exerted through 9,500 comments. TxDOT spent more time inventing ways to discount the comments than responding to them.
  3. Failure to recognize that the existing ramps are a primary barrier dividing the city. The secondary effective barrier is the frontage road concept. Finally, the elevated freeway is less of a barrier than both the ramps and the frontage roads.
  4. The community concept for eliminating the primary & secondary barriers is a new concept that TxDOT fails to recognize. In the absence of these barriers, collector distributor lanes below grade connect to portal ramps that lead directly to the city east/west streets eliminating the extremely dangerous conditions created by existing ramps and frontage roads.
  5. Despite wasting thousands of words under the rubric of “safety” they have proposed nothing to increase safety and nothing to reduce the many dangerous situations other than giving the issue of “safety” lip service.
  6. TxDOT flatly refuses to consider noise/air pollution despite the global climate crisis. TxDOT’s comments regarding dangerous air pollution are they will not study it or consider a real solution to it. Examples of victims include East Austin neighborhoods and schools as well as the University of Texas.
  7. TxDOT’s current plan is excessively expensive for the rebuild project proposed for twenty-two lanes through urban Austin:
    • WIDTH: TxDOT shows an average of +/- 350ft where only 204ft are actually required.
    • RAMPS: TxDOT’s plan maintains the major barriers, i.e., the ramps and frontage roads.
    • EXCAVATION: Rough calculations show that TxDOT’s proposal costs twice as much in excavation as the community alternative.
    • RETAINING WALLS: Only 2 are required by the community alternative, TxDOT proposes 6 on average.
    • CANTALEVERS: The most expensive way to provide an inadequate cap is basic to TxDOT’s proposal.

This op-ed can be downloaded here.