AUSTIN, Texas - Almost $9-billion. That’s how much it’s going to cost to rebuild I-35 through Austin.
TX DOT officials said they are ready to move forward with the massive plan despite not knowing exactly how to pay for it.
I-35 is considered to be the second most congested roadway in Texas. The number one congested road is Houston’s 610 between I-10 and Hwy 59. The proposed rebuild of I-35, according to TX DOT spokesperson Diann Hodges, runs 33 miles from RM1431 in Round Rock to SH 45 near Buda.
"We have to do something to fix it, and this is an option we are proposing, we'd like to add basically four additional lanes to I-35 two express lanes in each direction,” said Hodges.
The Capital Express project would be similar to the massive 635 interstate bypass in northeast Dallas. Managed toll lanes there are located below the main lanes. Doing that in Austin will make it possible to eliminate the upper decks between Airport Blvd. and MLK.
Work could start by 2021, which gives business a little time to prepare for life in a construction zone. Jose Jaimes, who manages the Hornitas restaurant and 38th St. hopes the project will take customers away.
"I'm surprised but I’m hoping it will help with the traffic, then again I don’t know if it’s going to be worse for the next couple of years … we been here a few amount of years, business has been ok but, just hoping it will not hurt us,” said Jaimes.
When I-35 was built, the interstate cut a physical and psychological divide through the core of town. The idea of putting a cap over the roadway is still an option. TX DOT officials said the cost of doing that will have to be paid by the city.
The goal is to keep I-35 open during construction but FOX7 was told there will most likely be some times when the interstate will have to be shut down. CapMetro could also experience some problems with its MetroRail Service. The Red Line crosses underneath I-35 at the Hancock Center.
There are three possible detours for drivers to consider when construction starts. They include MoPac to the west. The new Hwy 183 South to the east which will be called the Bergstrom Expressway when completed. And SH 130; which is about to be expanded to fix a bottleneck at Manor.
"We are adding an additional lane in each direction from 45 North in Round Rock to SH 71, that project will be complete before we ever start construction on the Capital Express project,” said Hodges.
It’s not known, at this time, how long it will take to complete the I-35 rebuild.