Residents share ideas, raise concerns at I-35 working group meeting

About 50 members of the Austin community, including cyclists, walkers, homeowners associations and a Sierra Club representative attended the two-hour public meeting at Huston-Tillotson University. (Sumaiya Malik/Community Impact Newspaper)
About 50 members of the Austin community, including cyclists, walkers, homeowners associations and a Sierra Club representative attended the two-hour public meeting at Huston-Tillotson University. (Sumaiya Malik/Community Impact Newspaper)

About 50 members of the Austin community, including cyclists, walkers, homeowners associations and a Sierra Club representative attended the two-hour public meeting at Huston-Tillotson University. (Sumaiya Malik/Community Impact Newspaper)

On April 12, the Texas Department of Transportation hosted the seventh meeting of CapEx VOICE, or Volunteer Opportunity in Community Engagement, to get public feedback on widening bicycle and pedestrian bridges and proposed intersections for the 8-mile I-35 downtown stretch between US 290 East and SH 71/Ben White Boulevard.

About 50 members of the Austin community, including cyclists, walkers, homeowners associations and a Sierra Club representative attended the two-hour public meeting at Huston-Tillotson University.

Residents used the opportunity to share ideas and voice their concerns about I-35 Alternative 2 and Modified Alternative 3 plans even though TxDOT specifically set up the public meeting to receive feedback about bicycle and pedestrian bridges.

“This VOICE meeting is an opportunity for the public to see what we are proposing in terms of bicycle pedestrian accommodations along the [I-35 Capital Express central project] corridor and give us input on them,” said Diann Hodges, TxDOT southwest communications director for Austin.

Attendees moved from table to table talking to more than 15 TxDOT and Mobility 35 contractors and engineers distributed among eight tables ready to answer questions. Each table focused on a different intersection and bicycle and walking paths. The meeting focused on walking and biking alternatives at almost 20 miles of new shared-use paths, and vehicle bypass lanes and Mobility 35 contractors at the table could only address those issues.



On one table, Josh Rudow, a representative of the Mueller neighborhood association, discussed ways of connecting the Mueller and Hyde Park neighborhoods.

“These neighborhoods, for the last 40 years, have been really separated based on how I-35 is designed,” Rudow said.

He said he was concerned where the path would go underground in the Airport Boulevard Alternative 2 drawings.

“Tunnels are kind of scary and can be not well-maintained. If it smells really bad, it can be scary for women,” he said. “I think especially if you do have to have a tunnel, make it really wide and have as much light coming in as possible.”

When asked about lighting, Hodges said, “Yeah, there will definitely be plans for lighting for those areas. We want to make sure that this is a safe project for all who use it. And that includes people who bike and walk.”

TxDOT alternative plans, amid other modifications, suggest widened bridges and new bicycle and pedestrian crossings at four streets. The modified Alternative 3 plan includes an additional bicycle and pedestrian crossings at Third Street and 16th Street. All of these features will need to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

TxDOT began hosting pop-up events in summer 2021 through CapEx VOICE, a community working group. Since then, VOICE has hosted community events at intervals to receive community feedback about project updates, modified alternatives and design aesthetic elements.

TxDOT is also proposing to reduce the frontage road speed limits to 35 mph through the downtown corridor.

TxDOT announced that future VOICE meeting topics being considered are aesthetics, discussion of the environmental studies, and cap-and-stitch projects, which could cover part of the roadway with public spaces.

By Sumaiya Malik

Austin editorial intern, Austin metro

Sumaiya Malik is an editorial intern for spring 2022 for Greater Austin. Her work focuses on writing web and print stories including business profiles, government, city news and area transportation. She is a graduate student of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a co-founder of Austin Arts and Drama Initiative.