The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has announced that the $4.5 billion expansion of Interstate 35 in Austin is moving forward, with construction beginning in mid-2024.
The I-35 Capital Express Central project spans 8 miles from I-35's intersection to the north with U.S. 290 down to where Texas 71 crosses I-35 in South Austin. The 8-mile stretch is the third most congested road in the state, and the most congested road in the state for 18 wheelers, according to a Texas A&M Transportation Institute study.
The project has met federal transportation requirements, allowing it to move forward with preparing the final design. However, future adjustments could be made as needed, TxDOT Austin District Engineer Tucker Ferguson said.
TxDOT plans to add two "managed lanes" for vehicles carrying two or more passengers. The highway's upper decks near downtown are set to be demolished. The bridges crossing the interstate are to be rebuilt and made wider.
The first of six phases of contracts are set to go out for bids early next year, with construction expected to take about a decade to finish.
According to TxDOT, over 18,000 people have given feedback on the project, with recent hearings leading officials to change plans for the expansion, including lowering the I-35 main lanes between Airport Boulevard and Lady Bird Lake and between Riverside Drive and Oltorf Street, adding boulevard-style segments through downtown Austin, and enhancing pedestrian and bicycle paths.
Officials are discussing including "caps" to connect east and west portions of Austin. TxDOT can engineer the interstate to allow for the installation of caps but cannot offer funding for it, which is why the transportation agency is looking to the city and the University of Texas to cover the cost.