Austin to use federal government grant money to help fund I-35 expansion study

The Biden-Harris Administration announced a $1.12 million grant for Austin as part of a program to reconnect communities.

This first-of-its-kind initiative aims to reconnect communities that are cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions by providing support for cities with plans to remove, retrofit, or mitigate transportation barriers such as highways and railroad tracks.

Austin's grant money will go toward the ‘Our Future 35: Connecting Austin Equitability – Mobility study'.

East Avenue, where I-35 stands today, was once a vibrant gathering place for Austin’s historically Black and Mexican populations - a boulevard known for its park-like, tree-lined medians that were once used for family picnics, conversations, musical performances, and sporting events.

TxDOT has been planning to expand I-35, its first major renovation since the 1970s. The study would take a look at the equitability of the plans. But, even the application for the grant was controversial.

In addition to the equity of the I-35 expansion, the study will also identify affordable housing, anti-displacement, and business support strategies, identify transportation equity-focused action items, develop a placemaking plan, and recommend mitigation for impacted neighborhoods.

Austin's study is one of 45 projects receiving a historic $185 million in grant awards.

"Transportation should connect, not divide, people and communities," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "We are proud to announce the first grantees of our Reconnecting Communities Program, which will unite neighborhoods, ensure the future is better than the past, and provide Americans with better access to jobs, health care, groceries, and other essentials."