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Austinites have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform I-35 through the heart of our city — investing in our community, improving all forms of transportation, and creating community parks, bridges and other amenities where the highway stands now. To take advantage of this opportunity, the Downtown Austin Alliance, in collaboration with a diverse group of Austin leaders, wants to create a community-driven vision for the future of the I-35 corridor in Central Austin.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform one of Austin’s biggest community barriers into a valuable regional asset for generations to come. While TxDOT’s proposal will lower the highway, it is up to the community to come together and develop a vision for what we’d like to see happen above and at surface level to create something that works for Austin now and in the future.”

— Dewitt Peart, president and CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance

The Opportunity

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has released preliminary plans to reconstruct I-35 through Central Austin. The plans envision removing the upper decks and lowering the highway between Airport Blvd. and Cesar Chavez Street. As TxDOT considers lowering the immense highway that has divided our community for decades, we can create a shared vision that builds on this investment to ensure the best outcomes for all Austinites.

More info about TxDOT Plans

Urban Land Institute Panel

As a first step in this process, the Downtown Alliance engaged the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) national advisory services. ULI brought a panel of diverse experts to Austin in February 2020, where they talked and worked with the community, gathering input and ideas for the future of the I-35 corridor. The panel presented preliminary recommendations for the future of I-35 at Huston-Tillotson University on February 28. The full report of their recommendations will be available in late 2020.

SEE THE PRESENTATION

On February 28, we hosted a community event at Huston-Tillotson University to share the preliminary recommendations of the Urban Land Institute panel, a group of national experts studying the corridor. Watch this video to learn more about their findings and the opportunity we have to develop a community-led vision to transform the heart of our city.

More about the Project

The Urban Land Institute Panel focuses on approximately 3 miles of highway through Central Austin from Airport Blvd. to Lady Bird Lake.

To prepare the panel of experts, the Downtown Alliance prepared a briefing book that served as a reference guide and high-level overview of the relevant economic, social and transportation opportunities and challenges facing the future of I-35. View the briefing book here.

LEADERSHIP GROUP
Mayor Steve Adler, City of Austin
Dianne Bangle, CEO, RECA
Darrell Bazzell, Senior VP and CFO, University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, President & CEO, Huston-Tillotson University
Randy Clarke, President & CEO, Capital Metro,
Tucker Ferguson, Austin District Engineer, Texas Department of Transportation
Paulette Gibbins, Executive Director, ULI Austin
Natasha Harper-Madison, Council Member, City of Austin, District 1
Mike Heiligenstein, Executive Director, CTRMA
Ashby Johnson, Executive Director, CAMPO
Mike Kennedy, Board Chair, Downtown Austin Alliance
Dewitt Peart, President & CEO, Downtown Austin Alliance
Mike Rollins, President & CEO, Austin Chamber
Martha Smiley, Board Member, Waterloo Greenway Conservancy
Commissioner Jeff Travillion, Travis County Precinct 1
State Senator Kirk Watson, Texas State Legislature, District 14

TASK FORCE
Heidi Anderson, The Trail Foundation
Heather Ashley- Nguyen, Texas Department of Transportation
Eric Bustos, Capital Metro
John-Michael Cortez, City of Austin
Miriam Conner, Community Organizer
Cody Cowan, Red River Cultural District
Susan Fraser, Texas Department of Transportation
Matt Geske, Austin Chamber
Robert Goode, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority
Stevie Greathouse, City of Austin Planning and Zoning
Sandy Guzman, State of Texas, Office of Senator Kirk Watson
Donny Hamilton, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration
Nefertitti Jackmon, City of Austin, Neighborhood Housing and Community Development
Nate Jones, Organization of Central East Austin Neighborhoods (OCEAN)
Mike Kennedy, Downtown Austin Alliance
Cole Kitten, Austin Transportation Department
Jeremy Martin, Austin Chamber of Commerce
Chad McKeown, CAMPO
Walter Muse, Travis County, Precinct 1
Shavone Otero, People United for Mobility Action (PUMA)
Caleb Pritchard, City of Austin, Office of Council Member Harper-Madison
Marisabel Ramthun, Texas Department of Transportation
John Rigdon, Waterloo Greenway
Yasmine Smith, People United for Mobility Action (PUMA)
Carla Steffen, Austin Convention Center
Geoffrey Tahuahua, Real Estate Council of Austin
Kim Taylor, Taylor Collective Solutions
Heyden Black Walker, Reconnect Austin
Jim Walker, University of Texas at Austin
Brendan Wittstruck, North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition 3 (NCINC3)

EAST AUSTIN BRAIN TRUST

The East Austin Community Brain Trust is a growing mix of activists, social justice advocates and community leaders at varying levels of involvement and tenure. The East Austin Community Brain Trust has convened as a group twice since January with ongoing one-on-one and small group conversations and planned participation in the ULI panel process. Its purpose is to shape the ULI panel experience in a way that educates the panelists on the Project’s cultural and racial context and reflects the interests of the communities east of I-35, both current and those displaced or at risk of displacement.

THE CONSULTANT TEAM
The Downtown Alliance hired a consultant team at the end of last year to help bring TxDOT’s preliminary designs to life and help the ULI panel understand the constraints with which we are working. The Consultant Team includes; Overland Partners (a Texas-based architecture firm), Arup (an international engineering firm), Lionheart (a landscape architect based in East Austin), and Public City (a public engagement firm).

Project Precedents

Columbus, Ohio – Union Station over I-670

• Street lined with buildings to create a seamless urban streetscape • Connects two retail/restaurant centers with retail-lined street • Creates a safe pedestrian experience

Dallas, Texas – Klyde Warren Park over Woodall Rogers Fwy

• Local project completed in coordination with TxDOT • Involved private sector participation and funding • Scale comparable to certain sections of I-35 in Central Austin • Created substantial greenspace within the urban core

Atlanta, Georgia – Fifth Street Bridge over I-75/I-85

• Connects an Innovation District with Georgia Institute of Technology’s main campus • Includes green space, tree canopies, and grassy lawns • Provided for protected bikeways

Historic Images: East Avenue before 1962
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