I-35 Upper Decks Going Nowhere Fast

Written by Brendan Wittstruck

[This is a longer version of the article appearing in the current issue of the  Flea — ed.]

Sen-Watson-Mobility35June2015

Senator Watson speaks on I-35

According to the Texas Department of Transportation and Senator Kirk Watson, the I-35 Upper Decks aren’t going anywhere.

Cherrywood residents and other North Central neighborhood delegates received this surprising news at a late May Open House that offered a sneak peek at the agency’s about-face on the Upper Decks before a public June announcement of the proposal.

Throughout the recent Mobility35 Capital Area Improvement Plan (CAIP) process, TxDOT officials have repeatedly insisted that the Upper Decks could not structurally bear the load of another lane of traffic, effectively leaving them out of the agency’s plans to build a managed toll/transit lane in each direction of the Interstate and offering a bit of hope to nearby neighborhoods that the decks might ultimately be removed.

Announced by Senator Watson, the new 10-year plan calls for a retrofit to the existing support beams that will allow an additional auxiliary lane to traverse the Upper Decks, reducing bottlenecks by eliminating the immediate need to merge for vehicles entering the Interstate from a ramp.

i35-elevated-deck-construction-1973

“Pillars of progress” construction, ca. 1973

While auxiliary lanes in practice have been shown to ease congestion caused by merging traffic, North Central neighbors have been quick to note that the distance between ramps on the Upper Decks—in excess of a mile—effectively makes the auxiliary lanes into additional throughput carrying capacity, resulting in more total vehicles, noise, air pollution and limited emergency access.

TxDOT’s plan for an additional auxiliary lane serving downtown from the uniting of the two decks has been more favorably received, owing in large part to indications that TxDOT will depress the Interstate through the downtown area in such a way that the City could eventually cap I-35 downtown.

Closer to home, The UT Center for Transportation Research presented a comparative traffic analysis of the 38th½ Street ramp proposal (which would require the acquisition of properties along the northbound frontage road), using modeling to predict traffic volumes with and without the proposed ramp. The Cherrywood Neighborhood Association had previously voted to neither support nor oppose the proposal until that information had been made available to the Association.

The North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition 2 formed last year to share information on the developing CAIP proposals. The group, which includes Cherrywood, recently sat down with TxDOT officials for a frank discussion on lingering concerns regarding issues like connectivity and pedestrian safety, burning issues for a City endeavoring to be sustainable, healthy and connected with an interstate that is anything but.

Brendan Wittstruck is a former Cherrywood resident and Steering Committee Member and serves as Chair of the North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition 2

 

 

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