TxDOT Considers Adding 2 Toll Lanes to I-35
In an effort to assist with congestion on Interstate 35 through downtown Austin, the Texas Department of Transportation is looking at adding two managed express lanes, where fees are increased during heavy traffic and lowered during light traffic, in each direction.
Local officials announced the $8 billion project, titled Capital Express, at the Austin Chamber of Commerce Regional Growth Summit meeting Monday. The toll lanes are expressed to be very similar to Mopac's single express lane. TxDOT Public Information Officer Diann Hodges said the express lane would stretch 33 miles from RM 1431 in Round Rock to SH 45 Southeast near Buda.
The main concern is the congestion in downtown. "Because of the constraints and the fact that we cannot widen the roadway, we're actually going to go down," said Hodges.
Along with adding two additional lanes, TxDOT said I-35 through downtown Austin would be lowered, and it is possible that the plan could involve removing the upper decks that stretch from Martin Luther King Boulevard and Airport Boulevard.
"We only get one shot to rebuild and improve I-35 through downtown Austin, so we have to do as much as is reasonable within the existing footprint to enhance mobility and lower it," said Senator Kirk Watson.
Many were thrown off by the decision to create toll lanes rather than general purpose lanes. TxDOT said that if that were the case, the lanes would clog quickly.
"This is a way to kind of control that traffic," said Diann Hodges. "Provide some relief to those general purpose lanes but also provide those who may need to get somewhere in a hurry, that opportunity."
Before this project will begin, the public will input from previous I-35 meetings will be taken into account as well as an environmental study. The general public will also be able to voice their concerns at open houses in Spring 2018.