Highway improvements in Austin may increase traffic

I-35 is considered, by many, as the backbone of the City of Austin. That's why transportation officials are working to keep it from being over-run.

Right now, dozens of projects are in the works to handle our growing traffic demand.

Over the next decade, we'll see highway improvements in and around the Central Texas region.

"We're talking about congestion and traffic, they're not just going to fix themselves. Austin is growing with over 100 people a day and that's not really going to change anytime soon," said (D) Representative Eddie Rodriguez, Texas House of Representatives.

Texas House Representative Eddie Rodriguez teamed up with the Texas Department of Transportation and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to tackle the issue head on.

With approval of Proposition 1, the Central Texas region received around $120 million in transportation dollars for 2015. Most of that money, along with other funds, went toward I-35 projects.

The Mobility35 program is focused on improving the 65-mile stretch between Williamson, Travis and Hays counties. Four projects were approved, including reconstructing the Slaughter Creek Overpass Bridge and developing improvements from North of Stassney Lane to South of William Cannon Drive.

"We worked to come up with some good projects that were pretty far along in the environmental process. So that way we could begin construction in a relatively quick time frame. All of the projects had to be ready to go out to bid by the end of 2015," said Kelli Reyna, TxDOT.

Meanwhile, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is working on the 183 South project.

It would be an eight-mile expressway with tolled and non-tolled lanes between US 290 and SH 71. Construction is expected to begin in early 2016 and last about five years.

The Mobility Authority says it will be a key North-South alternative to I-35, for those looking to bypass traffic congestion.

"Well this project is really going to open up the area. It's going to provide some direct connections at the time with 71 and it's going to get a lot of mobility from the 183 corridor into 71. Also, getting you to the airport quicker," said Justin Word, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

The SH 71 Express project will also improve airport access. Construction began in January and when completed, it will feature a 3.9 mile limited-access toll road. It starts at Presidential Blvd near ABIA and extends East, ending at SH 130 near Onion Creek. It was designed to enhance safety as well as reduce congestion and travel time along the SH 71 corridor.

"I know it's painful for a lot of people to get to see all the construction and everything else happening around town. There's probably going to be more to come but you can't get to that point where people are moving around faster and spending more time at home with their families instead of on the road, without that time," said Rep. Rodriguez.