CAMPO Throws Money at I-35

$400 million in new funding will go to the “Capital Express” project

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's Transportation Policy Board voted Monday to allocate $400 million in new funding to the "Capital Express" project – the latest iteration of the Texas Department of Transportation's decades-long quest to upgrade I-35 through Central Austin. The current TxDOT vision for adding capacity to the 28-mile stretch from State Highway 45 North to SH 45 Southeast involves managed lanes (either one or two in each direction). With new toll projects again out of favor among the state's top officials, these lanes (unlike those on MoPac) would be "managed" in some other fashion, such as restricting them to high-occupancy vehicles and buses.


A screen grab of TxDOT's animated I-35 rendering

Actually fitting several new lanes, managed or not, into I-35's constrained right-of-way has always called for creative engineering; TxDOT now proposes two levels of tunnels under the main lanes between Downtown and Airport Blvd., replacing the current upper deck. Through Downtown, TxDOT's animated rendering shows I-35 depressed below grade but not "capped," as has been proposed by the Reconnect Austin initiative to create new developable land and public space between the Eastside and the city center. (It was in support of Reconnect Austin that the Congress for the New Urbanism declared I-35 one of its 2019 "Freeways Without Futures.")

The total TxDOT project would cost over $8 billion; both the state and CAMPO (which has direct access to federal transportation funding) have already set aside more than $800 million to the cause. The CAMPO board, chaired by Austin Mayor Steve Adler, hopes that by allocating almost all of the region's available highway dollars to I-35, the region can impress the importance of the corridor upon state and federal funders and get the long-stalled project moving as soon as 2021.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

CAMPO, Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Capital Express, Texas Department of Transportation, Reconnect Austin, Steve Adler, Transportation Policy Board

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