$4 Billion makeover plan for I-35

A new plan was pitched Monday to expand I-35 through Austin. The project is part of a 10 year plan that could end up costing more than $4-billion dollars.

From Round Rock - to San Marcos- driving on I-35 can be a grind. The latest plan to improve traffic flow came with a warning.

"But let's be honest, you have to break eggs to make an omelet and there are going to be some eggs broken along the way, and we might even get a little bit on us," said State Senator Kirk Watson (D) Austin

What Senator Watson was serving up on Monday during an Austin Chamber luncheon - was a new 10 year plan called Mobility 35.

"The implementation of the plan envisions mobility improvements through a series of individual projects through the corridor," said Senator Watson.

The entire makeover starts north of Round Rock and stretches just past San Marcos. But, the main focus will be on the section that runs through downtown Austin. A 3rd lane is to be added to the Upper Deck - the Lower Deck would be modified to allow for a tolled expressway. From M.L.K. to the River the interstate would be lower and wider. The extra lanes - theoretically - will increase speed and reduce commute times.

"I don't know if this is the fix, these are great ideas we've been looking at this for decades, TX DOT, has since that study in 2011, but there are just so many things we can do and this is certainly one of the options that they have come up with, that's very impressive to me that we are looking at," said TX DOT Executive Director Joe Weber.

Environmental studies still have to be done -- despite that work - the goal is to start construction by 2020.

Before barricades can go up, others will have to come down. Specifically along Hwy 183, which is set to be expanded and MoPac, which is currently undergoing renovations. The two roads will become important bypass alternate routes.

Road building is to be fast tracked - with a 2024 completion date. Sounds like a done deal, right Senator?

"No. We still need to solve the funding puzzle."

A key piece to that puzzle will be decided in November- voters will be asked to siphon off a portion of oil and gas revenue from the Rainy Day Fund to transportation. The vote will determine if the plan gets into gear or becomes another dead end.

The downtown project could also be covered up and turned into park land, which several community activists have called for. But state officials say if Austin wants to do that, Austin taxpayers will have to pay for it. Mayor Steve Adler told FOX7 he doesn't have a financing plan to pitch to the council and one may not be ready for several years.


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