Austin City Council takes first step toward I-35 'cap and stitch' project

In 1997, the American Institute of Architects reported I-35 as a barrier between Downtown Austin and East Austin. With growing congestion, that sentiment is echoed to this day.

"Ever since I-35 was built it served as a symbolic barrier and an actual physical barrier for our community. Think about how uncomfortable it is right now to cross over I-35, whether you're walking or whether you're biking or whether you're in a car," said Melissa Barry, VP of Planning, Downtown Austin Alliance.

Thursday, the Austin City Council passed an item that will hire an engineer to look at a process called capping and stitching, to possibly be done in the Downtown Austin I-35 corridor.

A good example of what the city is trying to achieve would be what the City of Dallas did with Klyde Warren Park.

"It's really just a large deck over the highway. If you lower the highway, which TxDOT is planning, and you put a cap over the highway it allows us to use that space to reclaim that space for community uses," said Barry.

Stitches are basically widened bridges that run east to west and can include sidewalks, bike lanes and even seating areas. The Downtown Austin Alliance is one of the organizations pushing to get the project funded. TxDOT told FOX 7 Austin the city would have to raise the money for caps.

"Our hope is that TxDOT will make caps as part of the project itself," said Mayor Steve Adler, referring to TxDOT’s ongoing I-35 improvement project.

Adler supports the cap and stitch project, and is hoping TxDOT can utilize government funding from the recent infrastructure bill, alongside money raised by the city.

"Quite frankly it separated or physically segregated parts of our community from one another. It's long overdue and it's really one of the things we need to do to really correct prior injustice and create a dynamic of pulling the community together," said Adler.

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