The funding pulled together for I-35 in Austin will not have any impact on projects in the area currently in the procurement process.
In an effort to accelerate funding and construction on I-35 through Central Texas, the Texas Transportation Commission discussed a proposed plan at its meeting last month to add an additional $4.3 billion to build new lanes on I35 through Austin. The funding would be in addition to already approved amount, bringing the total investment on the I-35 Capital Express Project to $7.5 billion.
Full funding for the central segment of the I-35 Capital Express Project would require three additional funding decisions. The first source is about $3.4 billion in discretionary funding that the Commission will discuss. The second needed source of funding would be more than $600 million from TxDOT funds previously allocated to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), which would need to be reprioritized from planned projects that have not yet gone into the procurement process. The I-35 Capital Express Project is CAMPO's top priority project for the region. The third component of the funding is about $300 million that will be considered by the Commission when it votes on the 2021 Unified Transportation Program in August 2020. The new funding is the result of years of planning and discussions with Gov. Greg Abbott, regional transportation planners and stakeholders.
"Chairman Bruce Bugg and the Texas Transportation Commission have made tremendous progress to fully fund and deliver the I-35 Capital Express Project as a nontolled project," said Gov. Greg Abbott. "This project will relieve traffic congestion for all those who travel on I-35 through Austin, while helping our capital city meet the needs of a growing population. I thank Chairman Bugg, Commissioners Laura Ryan, Alvin New and Robert Vaughn, and all the key stakeholders for working collaboratively to secure this important funding, and look forward to working with them to address our transportation needs across the state."
Texas Transportation Commission Chairman J. Bruce Bugg Jr. added, "In recent years, I-35 through Austin has repeatedly been one of the worst chokepoints for drivers in Austin and Texas and the source for understandable frustration. The I-35 Capital Express Project is a statewide strategic priority project, not just for Austin, but the state of Texas. If Austin wants to continue to be a beacon for business and a wonderful quality of life, then work on I35 Capital Express needs to happen as soon as possible. I am delighted and honored to work with my fellow Commissioners and key transportation leaders to secure this funding for the top priority project through Austin."
Sen. Kirk Watson said this investment is necessary for the local area.
"I-35 through downtown Austin is a state and regional strategic priority," Watson said. "It must be. This proposal to invest an additional $4.3 billion in funds to address I-35 is the kind of bold investment we need. I'm very proud to have worked for years on the plan for making I35 more functional, more transit friendly and less of a scar through our community. This is an enormous step forward. I thank Governor Abbott and Chairman Bugg for working closely with me, seeing this stretch of road as a priority and for being willing to make such a bold investment."
With the funding TxDOT and its partners will be able to move forward, adding two continuous nontolled managed lanes in each direction along the 7.9-mi. section on I35 from U.S. 290 East to U.S. 290 West/SH71. Additional auxiliary lanes in various places and frontage roads would also be built.
The funding pulled together for I-35 in Austin will not have any impact on projects in the area currently already in the procurement process, including U.S. 183 North and the Oak Hill Parkway project. In fact, in the CAMPO region, there are projects that will continue totaling an additional $267 million; $107 million are funded by local funds, and $160 million are funded TxDOT funds.
The new construction should be well underway as additional traffic on I-35 through Austin is expected. Between 2016 and 2040, it is projected that we will add an additional 116,000 vehicles per day on I-35 bringing the I-35 corridor in Austin more pressure and congestion than ever before. For these reasons, Bugg said, "Any further delay in funding improvements to I-35 is simply unacceptable."
For the past three years, I-35 in Austin has ranked second or third of the state's Top 100 Most Congested Road Segments. Addressing this congestion issue is a statewide strategic priority project, not only for Austin, but for the state of Texas and the nation.
"It's finally time to address Austin's worse congestion chokepoint once and for all," said Bugg.