City council gives update on I-35 cap and stitch project in Downtown Austin

Austin City Council gave a breakdown and timeline on the multi-million dollar I-35 cap and stitch project in Downtown Austin.

"TxDOT, during the engineering, they have determined that we can in fact and will in fact be in a position to prioritize 11th and 12th Street," says Austin Mayor Kirk Watson.

A city council work session held on Tuesday dove into the budget and designs for the construction of "Our Future 35." The project falls under TxDOT’s plan to reconstruct I-35 between US 290 East and State Highway 71.

The 10-mile stretch will remove the upper decks and lower the highway between Airport Boulevard and Lady Bird Lake, adding caps and stitches.

Caps are a large deck over a stretch of the highway that can be covered with greenery or buildings. Stitches are a widened bridge with landscaping for biking and pedestrians.

"They do provide shared use paths, shade structures, landscaping as well as pedestrian lighting and potential public art," says Interim Director for Transportation and Public Works Richard Mendoza.

The project was created to improve traffic, public safety, and mobility efficiency. The cost of "Our Future 35" is currently being divided between the city, TxDOT and UT Austin.

"The first cost the city will be responsible for are design cost for the various cap and stitch components," said Mendoza.

The preliminary design estimate is at a total cost of $34 million, which will cover all the cap and stitch locations, excluding the amenities.

"TxDOT would need the city commitment for 30 percent design, $15 million by December 2023, which is next month. And for a 100 percent design, the amount of an additional $19 million, no later than December 2024," said Mendoza.

A timeline showing the different phases and amounts due was presented to council with a breakdown of the cost.

"The total city commitment needed for all potential cap locations is shown here as $165 million," said Mendoza.

The cap and stitch cost combined with the road elements necessary totals close to $509 million, and amenities come at a separate cost of an estimated $338 million.

"These could be open space parks, restrooms pavilions, trees, or cultural facilities," said Mendoza.

Caps are set to be located at Cesar Chavez through 4th Street, 4th through 7th Street, 11th through 12th Street, and 38th Street through the Airport, with four stitches from Holly through 51st Street.

"We anticipate a decision from the U.S. DOT on our grant application for the reconnecting communities a grant for the camp between Cesar Chavez and fourth, as you recall we applied for $105 million for that," said Mendoza.

According to the city, the notice of approval or denial will be given in February 2024.