Some of you may know that TxDOT is planning changes to IH-35 and has been exploring various options. Currently, TxDOT is proposing three options: “modified existing”, “lowered”, and “no build”. See below for details about the options.
TxDOT will officially be accepting input between Sept. 20 and Oct. 4. In its final impact study, the agency must respond to any substantive comments received during this period. We do not have to restrict ourselves to “voting” for one of the options that TxDOT is advancing; we are free to provide any substantive suggestions we wish.
I propose that FAN weigh in on this issue with a letter that (1) supports lowering IH-35 (but not necessarily all aspects of the “lowered” option TxDOT is proposing) to reconnect our east and west neighborhoods, (2) urges a number of specific improvements to IH-35 that are not currently in any of the proposals (see “FAN’s Suggested Improvements” below), and (3) among the limited “build” options TxDOT is currently advancing, expresses a preference for the “lowered” option.
Both “build” options would add collector-distributor lanes (intersection bypass lanes), modifying entrance and exit ramps, adding U-turns to several intersections and reconfiguring the 15th Street and I-35 interchange by lowering the main lanes to pass below 15th Street.
Between MLK Boulevard and Airport Boulevard plans include adding a lane in each direction on the upper deck and reconstructing lanes on the lower deck to add one express lane in each direction and increase bridge clearances. Other additions include U-turns, modifying entrance and exit ramp locations, and a diverging diamond interchange at Airport Boulevard.
MODIFIED EXISTING OPTION
TxDOT’s proposed improvements between 8th Street and Cesar Chavez Street would replace and “improve” the current main lanes in a similar configuration as it is today, meaning the main lanes would go over the east/west cross-streets. At Cesar Chavez Street, the southbound main lanes would be rebuilt to go over Cesar Chavez Street similar to the northbound side.
TxDOT’s proposed changes between 8th Street and Cesar Chavez Street would involve lowering both northbound and southbound I-35 main lanes below current ground level to go under the east/west cross-streets from 8th Street to Cesar Chavez.
TxDOT is also required to carry an option of making no substantive changes to IH35 in central Austin through the NEPA process.
FAN’s Suggested Improvements
- Lower as much of IH-35 as possible through central Austin, including the central and north central portion.
- Better east/west connectivity by reconnecting all east/west streets across IH-35.
- Cap the lowered portions of the highway.
- Improve bridge safety with wide sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and shade trees.
- Improve frontage road safety with design speeds no higher than 30 mph, wide sidewalks with continuous shade trees, protected bike lanes, on-street parking.
- Any transit along frontage roads and across bridges should travel in dedicated lanes.
- Any transit stations in managed lanes of I-35 should be in line (no flyovers for buses out of managed lanes), and east/west transit connections should occur at the in-line stations.
- Use natural barriers (e.g. trees) to mitigate additional air pollution from added vehicles.
- Mitigate additional noise pollution from added vehicles (but not with 50 ft concrete sound walls or other unsightly barriers).
- Full economic analysis of the impacts to City of Austin tax base.