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Reimagining IH-35

04/14/2022 Austin

Reimagining IH-35

Q1 2022 Austin Office Outlook

I-35 Is one of the most important highways in America. It stretches across 7 states and cuts our nation in half. This 50-year-old highway needs an upgrade. The Austin Stretch of Highway is in the top ten most congested highways in the nation. It is the second most congested highway in Texas. Austin, Texas is simply outgrowing its roads.

We asked Chris Bishop (a Public Information Officer With TXDOT) how the city plans to upgrade this section of I-35 between 15th Street and Cesar Chavez. He shared with us that TXDOT has been working on plans since 2011 to expand and “alter” the Capital section of I-35. This is intended to alleviate the congestion Austinites feel every rush hour. TXDOT’s plan is to expand the Capital stretch of the highway to a total of 20 lanes. This could displace 32 acres of land and could affect 140 businesses along I-35. Chris shared with us that TXDOT’s intention is to have little to no eminent domain, and he also shared that a plan they are currently working on could have zero eminent domain.

Currently, we are in a public deliberation phase, as TXDOT listens to community input on the proposed plans to widen and “deepen” I-35 from 15th Street to Cesar Chavez. Two Groups have emerged with plans to upgrade this section of highway. Rethink35 and Reconnect Austin. Each has submitted plans in contrast to the TXDOT Plan.

ReThink 35 is a grassroots movement aimed at turning the stretch of highway that goes through the capital into a boulevard. Their intention is to re-direct traffic around the city to Hwy 183 and SH-130. This boulevard would encourage people to travel at different times of day and would force a more even distribution of traffic. They claim it has worked in every other city that has ever done it.

Reconnect Austin is another Grassroots Campaign that is catching the attention of TXDOT. Their plan Is to “cut and cap” the highway from 15th Street to Cesar Chavez. This plan would have zero eminent domain and would move all highway traffic underground and cap this highway with a boulevard and parks. The “cut” would allow the city to capture car pollution and re-direct it out of the city. They claim that their plan increases regional mobility by adding lanes, reduces congestion by relocating local traffic, and adds 60% more east-west connections. The cap section would allow for more development and higher diversity in the Austin CBD. More development leads to more tax revenue for the city. Therefore, this option is gathering more attention over the last few months. Other cities such as Dallas and Boston have capped their highway and it led to a 79% increase in commercial property values, as well as increased tax revenue. 

TXDOT is currently under technical studies to determine the best plan for the city. They are expected to finish deliberation by September of this year and are hoping to start construction in the summer of 2023.

Download the Q1 2022 Austin Office Market Report

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