Neighborhood Voices Help Steer the Future of IH35 as Mobility35 Plans Move Forward

Written by Brendan Wittstruck (Reposted from the Fall 2014 Flea)

The Texas Department of Transportation has some big plans in store for IH35.  The Mobility35 Capital Area Improvement Program (CAIP) includes improvement projects from San Marcos to Georgetown and will almost certainly alter how Cherrywood residents get on and off the highway and navigate the surrounding streets by car, bicycle or on foot.

The central vision of Mobility35 is adding northbound and southbound lanes in the center of the IH35 corridor. TxDOT has loosely defined these lands as the Future Transit Corridor, the exact nature of which remains a moving target. At its second meeting with representatives from North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition 2 (NCINC2, which includes Cherrywood), TxDOT offered a summary of potential uses under study, including express lanes (similar to the new lane construction underway on MoPac), transit (likely bus) lanes or High-Occupancy Vehicle (carpool) lanes. It’s possible that FTC lanes will be tolled. The lanes have also driven conversations about additional changes, including rebuilding local bridges crossing the highway, reconfiguring ramps and improving conditions for bicycles and pedestrians.

Some of these proposals will be particularly noticeable in Cherrywood if carried out. Responding to input requesting a ramp to service Cherrywood, TxDOT is proposing a new northbound off-ramp between 32nd and 38 ½ Streets [see image]. Notably, this scheme would require an expansion of the right-of-way and require the purchase and demolition of properties from 32nd Street to south of 38 ½ Street, excepting the Chevron station at that corner. Some neighbors have voiced concern over this property acquisition for this right of way, and over proposals that may limit right-hand turns onto 38 ½ Street from that ramp.

Other community input throughout the CAIP process has brought some promising developments to the Mobility35 plans, including possible shared pedestrian and bicycle space along the northbound and southbound frontage roads. But many neighbor concerns remain unresolved, including:

  • The prospect of additional traffic, particularly on Manor Road.
  • Pedestrian and bicycle access at the proposed Airport Boulevard “diverging diamond” intersection.
  • The specter of land acquisition.

At the October meeting, TxDOT presented revised, up-to-date plans for modifications to Segment 4 of the Mobility35 plans, which includes the corridor from 12th Street to 51st Street. Steering committee members Girard Kinney, Jules Kniolek and Emily Schwartz represented Cherrywood at the meeting. Delegates at the meeting offered a panoply of new ideas ranging from the tactical (improving bicycle access across the highway at the busy Airport Boulevard intersection) to the large-scale (requesting TxDOT to conduct a neighborhood streets Traffic Impact Analysis). TxDOT has charged the UT Center for Transportation Research with modeling the system and the traffic impacts on adjacent streets.

The Cherrywood Neighborhood Association continues its proactive role in the CAIP discussions. While the CNA’s August meeting with TxDOT left many attendees disappointed and confused about the plans, the CNA and TxDOT will host another summit on Wednesday, Nov. 19. This summit is an essential chance to learn more about the up-to-date plans, meet neighbors who are engaging the highway issues and to document your questions, concerns and ideas for the future of the interstate in Austin’s central core.  Mark your calendars.

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