TxDOT breaks ground on I-35 Capital Express North project

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) broke ground on the I-35 Capital Express North project in North Austin.  

Capital Express North is an eight-mile $606 million widening of I-35. The work will be done between the SH-45 tollway in Round Rock and the Hwy 290 interchange in North Austin. 

Planners say the project could help address inter-city gridlock.

"The demand is already here. It's already the number three most congested roadway in the state. And much of that demand that is not using I-35 is bleeding over into the city. Street networks, which were not designed or have the capacity to handle that with the increase in population and residential and business and commercial and retail growth in a region that's only going to continue to exasperate, we need to build a project that's going to keep interstate type traffic on the interstate and allow the local network operating function the way it's designed to be," said TxDOT Austin Engineer Tucker Ferguson.

The main feature is in the middle of the roadway. HOV lanes are for carpooling and other vehicles like van transports. The wider footprint will require new bridges and ramps. A diverging diamond interchange, like the one near the Round Rock Outlet mall, will be at Wells Branch Rd.

Members of "Rethink 35" held a protest during the groundbreaking. They're opposed to the expansion, and support reverting. They want the interstate to be turned back into a boulevard. 

Adam Greenfield used a blow horn during the protest and claimed other big road projects have failed.

"TxDOT, it's going to spend 10 years expanding this highway for about 2 to 3 years of congestion relief before it's worse than it was before. That is a construction hell for a lifetime of misery. Let me say that again. Ten years of construction hell for a lifetime of misery," said Greenfield.


The expansion does include some alternative ideas. The design includes pathways for bicycles and walking. The HOV lanes will also be used by CapMetro as a new commuter option.

"Manage lanes, allow buses to get through the region's major corridor faster, providing better service for our current and future customers. As the region continues to grow and a service expands, we do envision using I-35 manage lanes for our commuter bus service, Just like we do on MoPac today. Not only will improve our current customer's experience on board, but it will attract new customers to take the bus," said Andrew Skabowski with CapMetro.

Major construction is expected to start taking place this summer. The project is expected to be completed in 2028. 

The next big project for I-35 is the big one that goes through the core of downtown Austin. It’s still going through environmental approvals and design work. It could start in 2024.