I-35, US 183 projects could advance thanks to new state transportation funding

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About $416 million has been identified for two projects on I-35 and one along US 183 in Northwest Austin from $2.5 billion projected to come in from Proposition 7 funding.

If approved, funding would go toward projects on I-35 near Riverside Drive, I-35 between Rundberg Lane and Hwy. 290, and US 183 between MoPac and RM 620. Construction could begin in the next two years.

The Texas Transportation Commission, the governing board for the Texas Department of Transportation, is expected to vote March 28 on the $2.5 billion list of 19 projects funded from Proposition 7 dollars, which voters approved in November 2015. The proposition dedicates more funding to the State Highway Fund and is expected to begin coming in during fiscal year 2017-18, which begins Sept. 1.

“We are anticipating where these funding streams are coming from and are placing them on projects that are so desperately needed,” Texas Transportation Commissioner J. Bruce Bugg said.

Approval of the funds would be included as an amendment to TxDOT’s $70 billion Unified Transportation Plan that addresses congestion, connectivity and safety. The projects are part of a new statewide initiative called Texas Clear Lanes.

“We’re executing on the choke points we’re seeing today, but we have a statewide strategic plan that is forward-looking,” Bugg said. “While we’re executing today, we’re planning for tomorrow.”

After the approval of Proposition 7, Gov. Greg Abbott tasked TxDOT with creating a statewide plan to alleviate congestion in the state’s five largest metropolitan areas: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

The directive was also given in part because of the expected doubling of the state population by 2050 to about 54 million residents, most of whom would reside in the five metros, Bugg said.

“We know we have congestion problems today, but we are also mindful of what the opportunities are of new Texans joining us over the next 35 years,” he said.

Proposed project funding

  • I-35 near Riverside Drive, $162.3 million: Construction is expected to begin in late 2018 to reconstruct the I-35 mainlanes and frontage roads south of Holly Street to north of Oltorf, add bypass lanes at Riverside, widen the bridges over Lady Bird Lake and reconfigure the intersection lanes at Riverside and Woodland Avenue.
  • I-35 from Rundberg Lane to US 183, $133.3 million: The project could start construction this fall and includes adding three flyovers or direct connectors between I-35 and US 183, reconstructing the St. Johns Avenue bridge, adding U-turns, adding auxiliary lanes for merging, adding a bypass lane at St. Johns and improving entrance and exit ramps. Some funding from this project came from the first round of the Texas Clear Lanes initiative.
  • US 183 from MoPac to RM 620, $120 million: The funding would go toward maintaining a continuous fourth lane on the highway, and construction could begin in 2019. The project is part of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority’s overall plan to add two toll lanes in each direction on US 183 and flyovers to connect to MoPac and RM 620. However, money from propositions 1 and 7 cannot be used for toll lanes, so the state funding would be used for the continuous nontolled general-purpose lane.
I-35 roadwork gets underway in South Austin

New northbound and southbound U-turn lanes will be added at I-35 and Oltorf Street, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Tackling statewide congestion

In February 2016, the commission approved allocating $1.3 billion of Proposition 1 funding that ended diversions from the State Highway Fund. The Austin area received $158.6 million from this first round of the Texas Clear Lanes initiative, and that funding went toward four projects on I-35:

  • I-35 at 51st Street, $11.4 million: Work began in September to realign the southbound frontage road, build a roundabout at the southbound frontage road of I-35 and 51st and construct a new southbound frontage road bypass lane.
  • I-35 at Oltorf Street, $54.4 million: Work began in February to reconstruct the Oltorf bridge, build U-turns in both directions, add auxiliary lanes for merging and improve entrance and exit ramps.
  • I-35 between Rundberg Lane and Hwy. 290, $82.7 million. Funding was allocated toward overall improvements that will include three new flyovers between I-35 and US 183, reconfigured entrance and exit ramps and a bypass road at St. Johns Avenue.
  • Transportation Management System upgrades, $10 million. Funding went toward improvements to the existing system, such as traffic cameras, dynamic message signs and roadway sensors.

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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.
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