Latest Updates on I-35 Capital Express Project in Central Austin, Texas

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The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has revealed details on the selected design plan for the I-35 Capital Express project. The eight-mile-long widening project will be along the I-35 route. It will run from US 290 East to SH 71 and Ben White Boulevard in Central Austin, Texas.

Two highway designs for the billion-dollar expansion competed for selection, Build Alternative 2 and Modified Build Alternative 3 designs. In the end, the Modified Build Alternative 3 design was the winning design for the I-35 Capital Express project. TxDOT’s selected design plan will result in fewer land seizures and displaced people than the competing proposal. 

The winning design for I-35 Capital Express will add a single-point urban interchange (SPUI) at I-35 and Riverside Drive. The SPUI is a configuration that will enable all left-hand turns to be controlled by a single traffic sign. Thereby allowing more vehicles to move through an intersection.

Project Overview

The I-35 Capital Express Project is a planned upgrade for an approximately 8-mile stretch of roadway, along I-35 between US 290 East and SH 71/Ben White Boulevard. This will be the first significant upgrade to this roadway in 50 years, which is ranked as one of the most congested roadway segments in Texas.

The improvements proposed for the I-35 Capital Express Project, include the removal of existing I-35 decks, lowering the roadway, and the addition of 2 non-tolled vehicles managed lanes, which will run in both directions, along I-35 from US 290 East to SH 71/Ben White Boulevard.

This project has been planned in such a way that the designs would incorporate the caps and stitch initiative proposed by the city of Austin, which will enable caps to be built over the newly depressed highway and also reconnect the city’s East and West sides at the surface level.

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The city’s proposed cap and stitch initiative will be certified under TxDOT’s NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process for I-35 and this project will ensure the inclusion of large decks and widened bridges in the I-35 Capital Express project. Funding for the caps and stitches will be provided by the city and will be separate from TxDOT’s estimated $4.9 billion costs. In addition, other safety and mobility improvements will be included within the limits of the project, such as pedestrian and bicycle paths.

TxDOT has been working on gathering feedback from the community and over 3,500 public comments have been collected in relation to the I-35 Capital Express Project. According to a TxDOT Austin district engineer, Tucker Ferguson, these I-35 improvements have been under discussion for over 25 years and now the goal of TxDOT was to incorporate those ideas into the project while overcoming the challenges and achieving the mission of improving safety, addressing congestion and enhancing mobility.

Design changes for the I-35 Capital Express Central Project

So far TxDOT has presented changes to two proposals, which will be reviewed at the public CapEX VOICE meeting by city officials and the transportation department. These design proposals are referred to as Alternative 2 and Modified Alternative 3. A “no-build option” called Alternative 1, is still on the table, in case the city and department leaders decide not to pursue an overhaul project.

Reported earlier

Texas Transportation Commission approves US $3.4bn plan for I-35 improvements through Austin, US

I-35 improvements

The Texas Transportation Commission has approved a US $3.4bn plan for I-35 improvements through Austin in the US. The Commission approved an update to the 2020 Unified Transportation Program (UTP) to allocate the funds for the I-35 Capital Express Central project which includes the I-35 improvements.

The money is from the Commission’s discretionary funds not previously allocated in the UTP, a 10-year planning document that guides the development of the state’s future transportation projects. Earlier in April, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization passed a resolution committing US $633m to the Capital Express project.

In addition, around US $300m will be considered by the Commission when it votes on the 2021 UTP in Aug. 2020. The funding, identified by Chairman J. Bruce Bugg, Jr., is the result of years of planning and discussions with Governor Greg Abbott, regional transportation planners, and stakeholders.

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The Capital Express Central project

The Capital Express Central project proposes to add two continuous non-tolled managed lanes in each direction along the 12.7km section on I-35 from US 290 East to US 290 West/SH71. Additional auxiliary and frontage road lanes roads would also be built.

The Commission also approved a conditional award for a design-build contract to construct the Oak Hill Parkway project. Colorado River Constructors was selected as the design-build contractor and will complete the final design for the more than US $600m projects and construct the state-of-the-art highway at the intersection of US 290 and SH 71 in Oak Hill.

The project includes three main lanes in each direction along US 290, as well as two to three frontage road lanes in each direction. Flyovers will be built at the US 290 and SH 71 intersection, where the main lanes of US 290 would be depressed, or go under SH 71. Construction is expected to begin in late 2020.

April 2022

A US$ 4.9bn I-35 Capital Express Project in Central Austin, led by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is currently undergoing environmental studies and schematic design work, which will last until 2023. Based on the project’s timeline, the construction is scheduled to begin by 2025, although this date is still subject to change.

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