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Austin’s Ambitious Plan to “Cut and Cap” a Downtown Highway!

“Since it was built about 50 years ago, Interstate 35 has been an enormous physical and psychological barrier through downtown Austin. Partly elevated, partly sunk, it’s the dividing line between what locals refer to as “east Austin” and plain old Austin. It’s also a major NAFTA trade corridor that carries 250,000 vehicles a day, and is considered one of the most congested freeways in the country. I-35 is due for repair, and naturally TxDOT has proposed a traditional rebuilding and widening project.

“Because the freeway is so widely used, tearing it down just didn’t seem  practical, Black said. The plan is partly inspired by a similar project in Dallas that capped the Woodall Rodgers Freeway. Now above the highway people play chess and ping-pong at the Klyde Warren Park, which opened last year. There are many other precedents, said Black, like Millennium Park in Chicago, which sits on top of rail yards.

“If TxDOT builds just another freeway using a bucket of tax money, it becomes just another recurring expense,” said Black. “If they take our approach … it becomes a recurring asset.”