Austin I-35 Super Street Concept Dropped

Yesterday TxDOT announced that it has dropped the Austin I-35 Super Street Concept and will now be offering alternatives.

Thank you Austin!

Now we await the revised concepts, and we’ll keep you posted as they develop.

If you haven’t already done so, please be sure to fill out the somewhat flawed (more on that soon) Mobility35 Travis County Neighborhood Survey.

Here is the full text of TxDOT’s announcement:

Austin I-35 Super Street Concept Dropped

I-35 through the heart of Austin is the most congested highway in Texas, and through downtown it has a much higher crash rate than the statewide average for urban interstates. To address these problems, the Texas Department of Transportation and the city of Austin have been working with stakeholders for more than two years to identify and evaluate strategies for improving I-35. These efforts led to the development of the Mobility 35 Plan for Travis County (also known as the I-35 Capital Area Improvement Program Corridor Implementation Plan) which was released in August 2013. The Mobility 35 Plan identifies a recommended program of projects and strategies aimed at enhancing mobility along and across I-35.

Texas Super Streets were among the strategies recommended in the plan. As a result of ongoing dialogue and feedback from stakeholders, Texas Super Streets are no longer proposed for I-35 in Austin. Instead, TxDOT has identified other strategies for enhancing frontage road mobility and safety while reducing driver inconvenience. These strategies represent a menu of frontage road modification options that can be tailored to site-specific intersection conditions.

Although the frontage road modification options are still being refined and evaluated, and each intersection will be considered on a case-by-case basis, it is anticipated that direct east/west movements could be accommodated at most of the current crossing locations.

Similarly, with the current exception of 6th Street, bicyclists and pedestrians would continue to have east/west access at all points where current crossings exist. TxDOT continues to work with stakeholders at 6th Street to examine alternatives that would keep this movement available. Police vehicles, fire trucks and ambulances would be able to cross I-35 at any crossing location when responding to emergencies.

The key to improving I-35 frontage road operations is to identify the best individual solution at each crossing, then ensure the crossings work together as a safe and efficient system. TxDOT and the city of Austin remain committed to that goal.

A Travis County neighborhood survey has been posted. So far, we’ve heard from more than 920 people and we want to hear from you! Information learned from the survey will be considered by the project team as the frontage road modification options are further refined and evaluated.

(Editor’s Note: Super Streets, as originally proposed in the plan, eliminate left-turn movements from the cross streets and eliminate east/west traffic flow across the frontage roads. Instead of traditional left and straight movements, drivers first turn right onto the frontage road and then u-turn before continuing to their destination. The resulting traffic pattern serves to improve overall traffic flow through the intersections and decreases the need to stop frontage road traffic at signals. While Super Streets can be an effective tool to improve the flow of traffic through intersections, the project team has determined they will not move forward with this option.)

Creating a Vision & Fighting Back

CNU’s March Highways to Boulevards Webinar
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26th @ 2:00PM CST
(If you are interested in participating, send an email to communications@cnu.org with the subject “March Highways to Boulevards Webinar.”)

It takes time to change perceptions on traffic, vehicle movement, and public infrastructure. And more often than not, it takes a vision.

Two enterprising campaigns currently taking place in car-centric Texas have honed their message with strong arguments for greater street and neighborhood connectivity, aided with sleek visuals and precise numbers. These campaigns offer alternatives to the current thinking of TxDOT. Lessons from these campaigns can be applied to other grassroots efforts nationally and elevate the conversation on how transportation infrastructure should look and function in an urban context. Understand these groups’ motivations from the leaders themselves and learn their strategies in Highways to Boulevards: Creating a Vision & Fighting Back.

Join two distinguished urbanists with experience crafting and articulating a vision for more connected, multimodal street design in a discussion on the importance of creating and selling a vision when fighting for urban highway removal. 2008 Athena Award winner Sinclair Black is the Firm Principal of Black + Vernooy in Austin, TX. A “tireless advocate for urbanism,” Sinclair and his firm are actively advocating for a “cut and cap” alternative to I-35 in Austin. Patrick Kennedy is a partner at Space Between Design Studio, LLC in Dallas, TX; author of the popular urbanism blog: Walkable DFW-Restoring a City to Walkability; and leading the charge to remove I-345 in downtown Dallas. In this webinar, Sinclair and Patrick share their strategies with attendees and stick around for Q&A.

Attendance is limited to the first 100 people to sign up, so email us now to hold your spot. This is the sixth webinar in a 10-part series from CNU on building effective highway removal campaigns. You can expect a new webinar in our series each month.

Freeways without Futures Survey

Please support our I-35 effort when filling out this Freeways without Futures CNU survey – and share with your friends so they can too!
Here’s how we filled it out:
1. What is the name of the highway? Please list any official and non-official names.
  • Interstate 35
2. What city/state does the highway travel through?
  • Austin, TX
3. If you know the beginning address, intersection or geographic coordinate, please enter it below:
4. If you know the ending address, intersection or geographic coordinate, please enter it below:
5. Describe the highway and why you recommend its removal. Please include any information about maintenance, surrounding land uses, and traffic conditions. If you have images or can provide more detailed information, please email Alex McKeag at amckeag@cnu.org with “Highways” in the subject heading.
  • Since it replaced Austin’s historic East Avenue, I-35 has been an economic, social, cultural, and racial barrier. Now, the highway’s bridges through the urban core of Austin are over 50 years old, necessitating reconstruction. This is the most congested highway section in Texas, carrying 200,000 cars a day through America’s Fastest Growing City (according to the Forbes measure of population and economy).
    As a NAFTA corridor, I-35 cannot simply be removed. However, one must recognize its immense impact on downtown, and the unique urgency of this moment, in which TxDOT is moving forward on improvements all along the Central Texas I-35 corridor.
    A proposal has come forward to lower the main lanes of this one mile stretch of I-35, cover that mile with a continuous cap, and place a city boulevard on top. The at-grade boulevard would be reconnected to the surface cross streets and the land where the frontage roads now sit would be converted to developable land…This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remove Austin’s historic blight and reconnect the city.
6. Are there any proposals or initiatives to remove this highway? Please list any groups or community leaders or groups who are currently involved.
  • Reconnect Austin (www.reconnectaustin.com) is a volunteer effort to catalyze a community conversation regarding the future of I-35.

Your Path to Austin: Bicycle Master Plan Update

There’s an important initiative underway in Austin this week. The effort is “Your Path to Austin”, which is an update of the City’s Bicycle Master Plan and the creation of a new Urban Trails Plan. These plans will help us achieve a connected and protected active transportation network and increase opportunities for people to safely bike around town, regardless of age or biking ability. Here’s the details of events where you can learn more and give your input:

Cities for Cycling Roadshow and Austin Bike and Urban Trails Plan Open House

Tuesday, November 12 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. (Presentation at 6 p.m.. Free. Light refreshments served)

St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th St., Austin

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from leading experts from around the country as they share innovations and ideas for creating an active transportation network in their cities. You’ll also learn about Austin’s Bike and Urban Trail Plan and have the opportunity to give input to help shape our city’s plan. Click here to view the event flier.

The City is also hosting presentations and interactive open house events both north and south during the week. Here are the event details (content of the presentation will be the same at these events):

Austin Bike and Urban Trails Plan Presentation and Open House Events

Wednesday, November 13 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. (Presentation at 7 p.m.)

Lanier High School Cafeteria, 1201 Payton Gin Road, Austin

Thursday, November 14 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. (Presentation at 7 p.m.)

First Evangelical Free Church of Austin, Community Hall, 4220 Monterey Oaks Blvd., Austin

If you can’t attend an open house, you can also visit the project’s website to learn more and to complete a survey to make sure Your Path to Austin reflects your views!

Please do send this information on to others you think would be interested!

How Tearing Up Highways Could Make Better Cities

We here at Reconnect Austin couldn’t relay this sentiment any better than the Observation Deck‘s Adam Rogers does:

“Tear it all down!

“Well, OK, not all of it. Let’s start with the freeways. They look permanent, sure, but most highways, especially the ones cutting through city centers, aren’t that old — only a few decades. And in some towns, they do more harm than good. They don’t decrease traffic, they cut sterile swaths through once-vibrant neighborhoods (or cut parts of the city off from what could be useful public spaces). So how about we all make like San Francisco, or Boston, or Seoul, and tear down the freeways we don’t need.

“This week on Observation Deck I’m thinking about what could happen if we tear up some of those ribbons of roads and start over again. We might end up with better cities”…To view the movie, please click here.