$8B expansion of I-35 through Austin would double toll lanes
- Texas transportation officials have said the department plans to double the number of toll lanes added as part of its $8.1 billion, 33-mile expansion of Interstate 35 through Austin, according to the Austin American-Statesmen.
- The project would include variable tolling lanes below ground through a substantial portion of Central Austin. That portion, which also includes free lanes, would feature a double-decker design as part of a 12-lane, three-tier concept and would be similar to another project the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) completed with Interstate 365 in Dallas.
- The $20 million environmental study of the agency's plan should be completed by 2019.
The TxDOT has been bullish on state infrastructure projects, laying out its plans for several major highway projects throughout the state. The department has made steps toward an initiative that would see almost $2.5 billion worth of projects. One of the biggest portions of that program, dubbed the Clear Lanes initiative, will see the joint venture of Balfour Beatty and Fluor Enterprises design and build the $625 million Dallas-area Southern Gateway.
The Texas Transportation Commission (TTC), too, is planning a nearly $9 billion highway initiative that would see to around 230 state highway projects. That program, however, is dependent on what state and federal funding the TTC can secure.
While Texas transportation officials have announced multiple projects worth billions of dollars, those plans haven't come without pushback from certain groups.
In August, a U.S. District Court judge ruled against conservationist groups that tried to use the environmental study requirement to stop construction of three Austin-area highway projects. The Save Our Springs Alliance and the Center for Biological Diversity argued that the three projects were interdependent, meaning the TxDOT should have had to produce a single environmental study to cover them all. Had the judge not rejected the challenge, it could have extended the construction process by years.
The government has also gotten flak from environmentalists around the U.S. Custom and Border Patrol's plan to construct a 3-mile section of border wall through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge along the Rio Grande River. Conservationists argue that construction could do damage to the refuge, which is home to hundreds of bird species and endangered wildcats.
- Austin American-Statesman Austin vision for I-35 makeover now includes two toll lanes per side
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