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Community offers input on how to 'fix' I-35

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Hey, who wouldn't love a hot afternoon spent sitting in traffic on I-35? The I-35 Capital Area Improvement Program is hoping to relieve some of that stress.

They've already got a bunch of ideas from stakeholder meetings and the community. And they're still looking for your input.

"Don't forget, we're not talking about just one spot. We're talking about Interstate 35 which is Main Street for so many people between San Marcos and Georgetown. So what you do in one place causes a ripple somewhere else. So it all has to be coordinated through," said Chris Bishop with TxDOT.

Gary Schatz with the City of Austin Transportation Department says in 2010, voters approved a million dollars to start the conversation about what to do with the highway in its existing footprint.

"What can we do with a bunch of small projects that individually have value, but collectively they have much greater value?" Schatz said.

Schatz compares all of the smaller projects to a string of pearls.

"Each one of these individual projects all along the corridor has value and solves an issue right there. But it also creates the opportunity for us in the future to do the string that connects the pearls together. And that string is a pair of new lanes," Schatz said.

One of the ideas for downtown Austin involves putting I-35 underground with perhaps a city park being built over it in the future.

"If you take the roadway down, you have bridges that go across. But instead of just being the usual and customary basic bridge, it could be so much more. It could have amenities. It could be like a linear park," Schatz said.

Thursday's open house saw a pretty good turnout.

Lifelong Austinite Sheryl Medearis-Mattingly feels like I-35 was poorly planned to begin with and now we've outgrown it.

"It's bad! It's just like a big parking lot at certain times and if there's any kind of accident, you're stuck there," Mattingly said.

She says she avoids it at all costs.

So far she likes most of the ideas she's seeing but she does have some concerns.

"A lot of times when these big things happen, the people who don't have political power, they are just rolled over so I'm concerned about that. I'm also concerned about how it's going to affect my bottom line. Taxes. I mean, where's the money going to come from?" Mattingly said.

Any solid answers about cost or time tables are pretty much non-existent right now as this project is still very much in the planning and idea phase.

But they do estimate a draft plan could be complete by Fall and if funding works out, construction on some of these projects could begin as early as 2015.

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