New Proposal For I-35 Receives Cherrywood Support

I35 Cut and Cap envisioned

I-35 has long been a headache and an eyesore, cutting Austin in half and choking on ever-growing traffic. Now a plan called “Reconnect Austin” has come forward that would not only take care of the traffic, it would also heal the concrete divide that separates two parts of town.

After a TxDOT plan for widening I-35 came and went a decade ago, the City of Austin obtained federal grant funds to examine the options, and then TxDOT came back with recently-renewed efforts that so far take a short-range “remodeling” approach.

Much more integral in its approach, Reconnect Austin is an initiative led by local architects and planners sharing “New Urbanism” principles, and endorsed by civic groups that include the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (DANA).

The Reconnect Austin vision is to “cut and cap” I-35 from Ladybird Lake to 15th St., resulting in a tunnel for through traffic below-ground, and local streets at ground level. It would look much like pre-1950 East Avenue, with uninterrupted cross streets and open, pedestrian-friendly areas.

A lot of land would be freed up for development as a result of having the narrower right of way, with an estimated 30 acres of prime real estate that the City could add to its tax rolls as new businesses open up in the previously-unproductive spaces.

Several other cities have had success with similar projects, and it can happen in Austin with enough citizen support. The CNA Steering Committee will soon draft a letter of support, adding Cherrywood’s endorsement for this visionary project.

Given enough momentum, the I-35 cut-and-cap could conceivably be extended north of 15th St., bringing the benefits even closer to Cherrywood territory.

More on the Reconnect Austin story can be found in a presentation and handout leaflet from Sinclair Black & Andrew Vernooy Architecture and Urban Design.

Meanwhile, TxDOT needs to keep hearing from people who want to see this happen. At Mobility35.org, which focuses on the Austin-area segment of I-35, there is a comments section  for citizen input. Comments are accepted via email (info@mobility35.org) as well.

TxDOT also has Mobility35openhouse.com, a “Virtual Open House” in support of the agency’s community input meetings. Although it is closed for now,  TxDOT sources say that the Open House feedback section of the site will be re-opened as part of another round of community meetings beginning mid-June, 2013.

PDF of CNA’s letter of support for ReConnect Austin (May 2013)

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