Complete overhaul of I-35 likely in Austin's future

A complete overhaul of I-35 is likely in Austin's future – thanks to a $7.5 billion plan that could soon be fully funded.

On Thursday, the Texas Transportation Commission is putting forward a plan to fill a $4.3 billion funding gap for the I-35 capital express project. It is a project that is set to transform the highway in the Austin area by making major changes, such as lowering the highway through downtown Austin, removing the upper decks and adding lanes. 

Austinite Cynthia Reynolds says she supports the project. “I think it's just gonna make it easier for people to get around, and we're gaining people in the Austin population -- and I don't think we're gonna stop that, so we have to do something about the traffic,” she said. 

RELATED: TxDOT secures funding for I-35 expansion in Austin

Resident Daniel Riegel says he would rather see the money go to public transportation. “We just really need a public transportation system here in Austin -- and if they add lanes to 35, they're just gonna get filled you know, in the next 5 or 10 years,” Riegel said.

The additional $4.3 billion would allow TxDOT and its partners to build two new continuous toll-free lanes on I-35, as well as auxiliary lanes and frontage roads.

State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) issued a statement on the plan that says in part, the additional $4.3 billion is the “kind of bold investment we should all expect from our public leaders.” At the same time, he says he does not think “this financing mechanism is perfect.” 

A meeting will be held Thursday morning to publicly discuss financing. 

“At times, it has felt like an un-ending road to nowhere, but we've finally arrived at a place that will ensure the complete redesign and construction of I-35 through central Travis County, including managed lanes from the Williamson County line to the Hays County line. The significant investment being discussed tomorrow is long overdue, but it’s greatly appreciated.

Lowering I-35 through downtown Austin and removing the upper decks will be a transformational change for our community. This investment, combined with the ongoing conversation being led by the Downtown Austin Alliance, provides the opportunity for us to address the needs of our neighborhoods while also improving mobility.

The proposal to invest an additional $4.3 billion in funds to address I-35 is the kind of bold investment we should all expect from our public leaders.  I thank Governor Abbott and the Transportation Commission Chairman Bruce Bugg for working closely with me and for being willing to make such a bold investment. This is a generational — actually a multi-generational — commitment.  It’s absolutely needed. It needs to be big, and it needs to happen ASAP.

I don’t think this financing mechanism is perfect. It’s not, in my view, the best way to meet our mobility needs locally and the financing needs of our state. But it’s significant and welcome progress. I recognize the political environment in which we live, and I'm not going to let a fight for my idea of the perfect outcome lead to our getting no outcome when we can get a very good outcome.”