Sinking interstate would create land for development and parks

As the Texas Department of Transportation solicits ideas for the future of I-35, a vision is being proposed that would radically alter Central Austin.

A plan proposed by urban designer and architect Sinclair Black would sink I-35 underground from Lady Bird Lake to 15th Street, place a cap above the interstate and turn the land I-35 now occupies into mixed-use development, an urban boulevard and parkland. Black, who began seriously discussing the plan with city leaders and groups in March, said the cut and cap plan would be a significantly better alternative to expanding I-35 above ground.

“People need to know that they need to choose between a perpetuation of the barrier that we have in the building of more elevated [I-35] freeway lanes or to take a deep breath and solve the problem once and for all and forever,” he said.

The total cut and cap project cost, which Black estimated at $550 million, would be more than offset with the revenue generated from up to four new toll lanes and the sale and property tax created from the new land above I-35, he said.

While the proposal would create several more lanes of road through Central Austin, Black said the project has as much or more to do with economic development and urban design than it does with transportation engineering.

“This is building a solution for the next 200 years instead of the next 50 [years],” he said.

TxDOT spokesman Chris Bishop said he was not familiar with the cut and cap plan but said it could potentially be included as a proposal for My 35, a committee that receives community input on how to improve the interstate.

Next month’s issue will feature a detailed look into the logistics of the cut and cap strategy as well as other proposed long-term projects for I-35.


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