I am writing today in support of those working in my former hometown of Austin, TX to encourage the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to think differently about its plans to expand I-35 through the heart of Downtown Austin. Traditional thinking on highway expansion usually proposes solutions such as adding additional travel lanes to increase the highway’s capacity. If this option is not available because of a lack of space to expand, an alternative might be the addition of dynamic tolls to manage the timing of the traffic demand.
Yet there are a number of design professionals and organizations (such as the Congress for the New Urbanism) that are thinking more creatively about highway planning, particularly those highways that go through the heart of dense urban places. These entities are challenging us to rethink if the highway through the heart of the city is still even necessary. One approach explores the possibility of removing that section of highway completely as demonstrated by the removal the Park East Freeway in Milwaukee. Other approaches include capping the highway (such as Klyde Warren Park in Dallas) or putting the highway underground such as the Big Dig in Boston. These approaches are bold, and in order for any of them to be considered seriously by leadership at our State’s Department of Transportation, it takes a groundswelll of community activism and leadership from the area’s top planning, engineering, real estate, and local political leaders.
This groundswell is happening right now in Austin, Texas and they need our help! Organizations such as Reconnect Austin, Rethink 35, and Our Future 35 have put forward compelling visions of how I-35 could be improved to allow for a more walkable and connected Austin. Utilizing TxDOT’s official public engagement feedback period for this expansion project that ends this Friday, April 9th, they are requesting that TxDOT include these alternatives as they consider the highway expansion project’s scope. Please consider supporting this cause and join us in signing this petition requesting TxDOT consider these alternative ideas.