The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) of Austin will be making improvements to 28 miles of Interstate 35 from SH 45 North to SH 45 southeast though an on-going project known as the I-35 Capital Express Program. It is made up of three stand-alone projects – North, Central and South. The Central project is on a later time frame, while the North and South projects are generally ahead, and on the same timeline.
The North I-35 project’s improvements include, but are not limited to, adding one non-tolled high-occupancy vehicle managed lane in each direction (from SH 45 North to US 290 East), reconstructing bridges, and adding a diverging diamond interchange. TxDOT says that the project will require an additional 17 acres of new right-of-way (ROW), and will displace 5 commercial properties. Offer letters are currently underway and construction is expected to begin sometime this year. Similarly, the South I-35 project’s improvements include, but are not limited to, adding two non-tolled high occupancy vehicle managed lanes in each direction (from SH 71/Ben White Boulevard to SH 45 Southeast), reconstructing bridges, and adding pedestrian and bicycle paths. For the South project, TxDOT says an additional 13 acres of new ROW will be required. Final designs are out, and offers letter are currently being sent to affected landowners. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2022.
Last November, the residents of Austin approved funding for the construction of two light rail lines (Blue and Orange), a downtown transit tunnel, a commuter rail line (Green), a new rapid bus route (Gold), and three new MetroRapid throughout the city. The controversial project has received criticism for its $7.1 billion price tag and lengthy construction schedule. CapMetro and the City of Austin expect 45% of the project’s cost to come from federal funding, which still leaves $3.9 billion left to local investments and taxing.
The right-of-way (ROW) will expand and is expected to displace residents along the new rails paths. Within this $7.1 billion price tag, there includes $300 million for displacement issues to occur alongside the location of the new rails and rapid bus routes. Final design and procurement for MetroRapid Phase I is expected to reach completion by 2022.
The RM 620 expansion project near Lakeway, Texas is still on track despite some funding shifts. In June, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) voted to move construction funding for the RM 620 expansion to I-35. However, funding for the initial right-of-way expansion still remains and TxDot is going forward with right-of-way acquisitions. TxDot appraisers will be inspecting impacted properties in Fall 2020. Before construction can begin, TxDot must still complete the final schematic and obtain approval of the final environmental study.