The Texas Department of Transportation unveiled preliminary design concepts for ways to ease some of the congestion along I-35. The problem is the state agency doesn't have the money for the projects yet.
"Some parts of I-35 we have more than 200,000 vehicles traveling daily," said Terry McCoy, an engineer with TxDOT.
McCoy says plans would add one lane in each direction the entire length of the interstate through Travis County. If that happens then all of the ramps would be removed in the one and a half mile stretch of the lower decks. The space would be needed in order to add the two lanes.
The most congested stretch of the interstate is between Highway 290 and Ben White, according to the Texas Transportation Institute.
The Mobility 35 Project Team held a workshop Tuesday taking a closer look at some of the concepts that could help some of the problems on the plagued highway. The team wants to avoid completely rebuilding the interstate. They do say that a stretch through downtown would likely need to be reconstructed.
In order to do that one of the concepts is the cut and cap plan. Engineers suggest sinking the road by 25 feet. Video animation released by TxDOT shows what the roadway would look like. Essentially making drivers feel like they are moving through a tunnel. On top would be green space. It's likely some of the bridges would need to be rebuilt and the Red Line may need to be shifted.
Engineers propose reducing the number of ramps by half. They say the way they were designed back in the fifties doesn't meet current standards.
Steve Miller with HNTB say there are other smaller improvements that can be made up and down the I-35 corridor.
"Things like ramp improvements, auxiliary lanes, collector-distributor roads and intersection improvements will help," said Miller. Some of those projects will happen throughout Travis County.
State Senator Kirk Watson is outspoken under the dome about the need for more money for transportation. He says that paying for the projects will be a challenge. Money will likely need to come from all available resources.
Watson says plans for the projects need to be shelf ready so that when the money becomes available there won't be significant delays.
The Mobility 35 Project is part of a comprehensive system. Early cost estimates for all the projects could be between $1.5 and $2 billion.
Miller is clear in saying that this plan doesn't fix I-35 but it makes it the best it can be given the right of way constraints.
A preliminary study could wrap up by the end of 2014. It looks at Future Transportation Corridors and the additional lanes which could be added along the interstate. The debate continues over what those lanes should be used for. Some of the ideas considered are HOV lanes, general purpose lanes or even toll roads.
Engineers and project leaders want to hear from you. TxDOT is hosting several open houses.
Wednesday, June 4
Akins High School 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Thursday, June 5
Frank Fickett Scout Training and Service Center Conference Center
12500 North I-35
People wanting to participate who cannot make it can give input online through a Virtual Open House that runs from June 3-15. More information can be found at www.mobility35.org.