TxDOT animation provides glimpse at possible future I-35

Austin drivers may soon be waking up from the decades-long traffic nightmare that is I-35, at least that’s the hope.

Texas Department of Transportation animation shown at Monday night's Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization or CAMPO meeting is an example of what the highway may look like someday.

"The number one priority and mobility issue in Central Texas is the congestion on I-35," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler, chair of CAMPO's Transportation Policy Board.

At the board meeting, CAMPO made a pretty big commitment. The mayor says basically the State of Texas asked local leaders if I-35 was a priority and CAMPO's answer was "yes."

"And such a number one priority that we're willing to say that we'll take a chunk of the money that the state would otherwise be giving us over the next 2, 3 years and put it toward that project," Adler said.

That “chunk of money” is $400 million for the Mobility35 Capital Express Project, an overhaul of 35 from 45 North to 45 Southeast. TxDOT says the construction cost is about $5.6 billion.

“But you also have the design and right of way costs on top of that so the total project cost looks to be somewhere between $6.5 and $8 billion,” Adler said.

Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan says the idea is "State of Texas: if you're willing to invest the billions, we're willing to invest the millions.”

Flannigan is also on the board with a number of his city council colleagues.

"Nobody disagrees that I-35 is a problem. What we disagree on is what is the nature of the problem. Some folks think that we just need to add more lanes and we need more throughput on I-35," Flannigan said. “Other folks speak to the upper decks and the way that it splits downtown from East Austin and it has ripped a tear through our community.”

During TxDOT's presentation they detailed one to two non-tolled managed lanes in each direction.

"Adding managed lanes, burying I-35 as it goes through downtown and maybe even taking down the double deck section," Adler said.

Flannigan says those ideas can still be vetted.

"All of that is preliminary, it is just diagrams on a slide," Flannigan said. “None of it has been run through a public input process, none of it has run through an environmental process or a study process so there's a lot of details yet to work out.”

The CAMPO board's vote was unanimous Monday night. Adler says there's no guarantee I-35 will get done this way but he says fingers crossed this indicates real movement.

"We have a community that's ready to act. We're asking the state to find the money to help us move forward, we're ready to contribute a lot," Adler said.

CAMPO also agreed to commit $100 million toward a couple of other projects, FM 620 at Anderson Mill as well as frontage roads on US 183A.