TxDOT targets I-35 in Austin for $158.6 million in congestion relief funding


The Texas Department of Transportation announced Jan. 27 it plans to spend $1.3 billion on the state’s most congested roadways, including I-35 in Travis County.

About $158.6 million will go toward projects in TxDOT’s Austin District, including at 51st Street, Oltorf Street and between Rundberg Lane and Hwy. 290 E. The congestion relief plan still needs approval from TxDOT’s governing board, the Texas Transportation Commission, which likely will take a vote at its Feb 25 meeting.

“Relieving traffic congestion is essential for our economy and our quality of life,” state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said in a news release. “I’m pleased this initiative has put the emphasis on I-35, which is the most pressing congestion problem for Central Texas as well as the state. We’ve worked hard and successfully to develop a plan for reducing congestion on I-35 and this investment is key to moving that plan forward.”

In recent years TxDOT has received more funding to put toward making improvements on I-35. The agency’s $4.3 billion Mobility35 implementation plan involves breaking down the plan into manageable projects that can be funded as money becomes available.

“We are so grateful in Central Texas for our governor and the commission’s interest in congestion relief. We are especially appreciative that Commissioner [J. Bruce Bugg Jr.] has spent so much time with us locally listening to the concerns of our region,” said Will Conley, chairman of the CAMPO policy board and Hays County Precinct 3 commissioner. “This correspondence has strengthened our partnership with the state and strong partnerships make it possible to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of our citizens.”

TxDOT has already allocated $58.7 million toward the four projects in the congestion relief plan. Those projects will cost a total of $387.3 million.

I-35 improvements

I-35 at 51st Street: $11.4 million
• Realign the southbound frontage road
• Construct a new southbound frontage road bypass lane
• Construct a roundabout at the southbound frontage road of I-35 and 51st
• Reconfigure the entrance and exit ramps
• Improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities

I-35 at Oltorf Street: $54.5 million
• Reconstruct the Oltorf bridge
• Improve entrance and exit ramps and frontage roads
• Construct new auxiliary lanes for merging traffic or extended entrance and exit ramps
• Add U-turns in both directions at Oltorf
• Improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities along the I-35 frontage roads in each direction

I-35 from Rundberg Lane to Hwy. 290: $82.7 million
• Add three new flyovers to improve traffic flow between I-35 and US 183. The flyovers will be built from southbound I-35 to southbound US 183, from northbound US 183 to northbound I-35 and from southbound I-35 to northbound US 183.
• Reconfigure entrance and exit ramps to address congestion on the existing northbound I-35 to northbound US 183 flyover
• Reconfigure the existing northbound I-35 to northbound US 183 flyover to improve operations
• Add intersection bypass roads under St. Johns Avenue in both directions
• Reconstruct the St. Johns bridge

I-35 Traffic Management System improvements: $10 million
TxDOT plans to spend $48.7 million on upgrades to the Transportation Management System, including to the existing Intelligent Transportation System infrastructure. The infrastructure includes traffic cameras, dynamic message signs and roadway sensors. The upgrades will provide drivers with real-time, accurate traffic information to make informed decisions on choosing a route, according to TxDOT.

See the full project list here.

Updated Jan. 29 to correct the total cost of the Traffic Management System improvements.

I-35 at 51st Street

Improvements at I-35 and 51st Street would be funded by the Texas Department of Transportation’s $1.3 billion congestion relief plan. (via Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)

Funding I-35 improvements

Money for the congestion relief plan comes from the 84th Texas Legislature approving the end of gas tax revenue diversions from transportation, which is estimated to bring in about $650 million annually.

More TxDOT funding will become available in future years when because the Legislature approved SJR 5. That bill resulted in the Nov. 3 election where voters approved Proposition 7. That move directs $2.5 billion from sales tax revenues after $28 billion toward the State Highway Fund beginning in 2017. It also diverts 35 percent of the state’s motor vehicle sales tax after $5 billion to the SHF beginning in 2019.

In November 2014, voters approved Proposition 1, which dedicates a portion of the state’s oil and gas tax revenues toward the State Highway Fund instead of the Economic Stabilization, or Rainy Day, Fund.

The policy board for the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is responsible for coordinating transportation planning efforts in Central Texas, voted in late 2014 to dedicate funding from Proposition 1 toward I-35.

Projects that have received funding from Proposition 1 thus far include improvements at William Cannon Drive and Stassney Lane, at the Slaughter Creek overpass and at 51st Street.

Amy Denney
Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area. As senior editor, she is the point person for the company's partnership with Fox7 Austin.
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