I-35 Update

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Natalie Deller
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2022 3:12 pm

I-35 Update

Post by Natalie Deller »

On behalf of CM Qadri, CM Vela, and CM R. Alter:


Since Council’s resolution in March, we have been meeting productively with TxDOT to mitigate air, water, and safety impacts and to maximize capping and connection opportunities. We greatly appreciate the work that TxDOT, Mayor Watson, City staff, and advocates have done to improve the project, to make it safer, and to mitigate the impact of the highway on our community.

Reviewing the latest plans gives us hope that we are on track to a better project. We are pleased that TxDOT has modified their plans to deepen the highway between Dean Keeton and 45th Street, creating the opportunity for a 7.5 acre cap between 38th ½ Street and Airport. This will create new opportunities for greenspace and affordable housing, and minimize the negative impact of the highway on the surrounding neighbors. This has been long fought for by the Cherrywood Neighborhood Association and central neighborhoods. A more complete list of community updates can be found in the Mayor’s letter to community advocates below.

We are eager to discuss funding mechanisms for the caps and to explore opportunities to collaborate across all levels of government to achieve our shared goals. Per the FHWA Voluntary Resolution Agreement with TxDOT for the I-45 expansion in Houston
(https://www.txdot.gov/content/dam/docs/ ... signed.pdf), we have a baseline expectation for the division of City and TxDOT expenditures. Capping the highway provides great opportunities to reclaim land and add value that can be captured to help pay for the caps. We look forward to working with our counterparts at all levels of government to ensure these caps and connections are built along with the I-35 Central project to provide our communities with much needed benefits. We have much work ahead of us to design and fund the caps, but we’re confident that we can be successful together.

While we have seen significant improvement in the designs, we have several concerns yet to be fully resolved, such as:
- Commitment of parkland swap and operations/maintenance agreement with the Trail Conservancy and City of Austin;
- Commitment to treat stormwater runoff from the drainage outfall near US 183 and Cesar Chavez Street;
- Improve the design of intersections for pedestrians and bicyclists, particularly at Riverside Drive, Airport Boulevard, and 51st Street;
- Add pedestrian/bicyclist crossings between Airport Boulevard and 51st Street and between Riverside Drive and State Highway 71;
- Amend the air quality analysis based on projected non-attainment status for particulate matter, and commit to mitigation that includes treating
emissions via caps; and
- Commitment that all surface level elements of this corridor, including frontage roads, bridges, shared use paths, and crossings are designed to
NACTO standards and in compliance with the City of Austin Transportation Criteria Manual.

We have serious reservations that these can be accomplished by the August deadline to release the Final Environmental Impact Statement and the Record of Decision. Such a complex project requires multiple iterations of design and public feedback to ensure that every last dollar of the $4.5 billion in taxpayer money is invested in the best possible outcome for the people of Austin. We continue to urge TxDOT to provide meaningful engagement opportunities with residents, incorporate feedback, and give the City adequate time to effectively coordinate on all aspects of this once-in-a-generation infrastructure project.

While we recognize that I-35 needs to be modernized and improved, we continue to disagree that expansion will solve our congestion challenges. We continue to have serious concerns about the safety, environmental, and climate impacts of highway expansions in general. TxDOT has made meaningful strides to improve this project, but more cars set us back as a city on our climate equity, sustainability, and Vision Zero traffic safety goals. As this plan moves forward, we must double down on our efforts to improve mobility, decrease carbon emissions, and bridge the nearly century-long divide this highway has represented in our community.

Northern Cap Iteration Options from TxDOT: http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 170330.pdf
Mayor’s Letter to advocates: http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 170429.pdf

Council Member Zo Qadri, District 9
Council Member Chito Vela, District 4
Council Member Ryan Alter, District 5
Policy Advisor
Office of Council Member Zo Qadri, District 9