Bonus Bad News: I-35 Expansion Will Be a Thorn in Austin’s Side for Years to Come

Expensive, environmentally destructive, and unpopular plan persists


A November protest demonstrated TxDOT's $4.5 billion project continues to draw opposition (Photo provided by Emily Smith / Rethink35)

Another big story of the year that unfortunately will be ongoing for the next decade or more is the stubborn $4.5 billion expansion of I-35. Displacing the Chronicle as well as 50-plus other businesses for its construction, the plan is a disaster for the environment and Austin's mobility goals, and reifies historic racial segregation between East and West Austin. Building caps and stitches (like land bridges) over the highway could mitigate some of those repercussions, but the city will have to cough up $700 million for it. The Texas Department of Transportation approved its own environmental impact statement in August and is set to begin construction in March of next year.

There are options for the city to fund caps before then: creating a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, asking voters to approve a new bond, or soliciting federal grants (and grant applications have to be done by April). In October, City Council asked TxDOT to take a pause until two regional transportation plans are complete because the plans are required to receive federal grants. All in all, as Rethink35's Adam Greenfield – who is suing TxDOT over the expansion – put it, "It's absurd and deeply unfair that ... Austin [is] in this situation of having to clean up TxDOT's mess."

“It’s absurd and deeply unfair that ... Austin [is] in this situation of having to clean up TxDOT’s mess.” – Rethink35’s Adam Greenfield

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

I-35, TxDOT, City Council, Top 10s 2023, Texas Department of Transportation, Adam Greenfield, Rethink35

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