Toni House, East Riverside Representative (EROC)
TxDOT’s goal emphasis for the I-35 Mobility Plan is to shorten the time it takes I-35 travelers to get through Austin.1 The initial proposal removes the Woodland Avenue east-west intersection at I-35 and provides U-turns at Riverside & I-35 and Oltorf & I-35. As highway designs that serve rural and large suburban areas are not appropriate for central city neighborhoods, the planners apparently did not consider the collateral effect on the neighborhoods abutting I-35.
For example, in order to attend the SRCC monthly meeting west of I-35 and coming from EROC, a driver would have to turn onto the I-35 northbound access road (without any break in oncoming traffic currently provided by the Woodland Avenue stoplight), cut across an unknown number of lanes of fast-moving cars to reach a planned U-turn at Riverside & I-35, loop around onto the southbound access road, again cut across an unknown number of lanes of traffic, and then turn west onto Woodland where eastbound Woodland empties into the southbound access road. For eastbound travelers on Woodland, they would have to repeat these steps going south to reach the U-turn at Oltorf & I-35 in order to go east on Woodland or to access northbound I-35.
In response to neighborhood concerns over the proposed closure of Woodland Avenue to east-west through traffic at its intersection with I-35,2 TxDOT offered two possible alternatives during the February 3rd meeting of the City Council’s Committee on Comprehensive Planning & Transportation—elevating Woodland Avenue above a redesigned I-35, or lowering Woodland Avenue an additional six feet beneath.
TxDOT representatives attended SRCC’s General meeting on February 3rd and reiterated that the two alternative proposals are technically feasible. They would not, however, commit to recommending either of these alternatives over TxDOT’s initial proposal contained in the Mobility Plan.
Mayor Pro Tem Cole and Council Members Morrison, Riley and Tovo deserve our thanks for responding to our concerns. They recognize the importance of this issue to not only SRCC and EROC neighborhoods, but to other residential neighborhoods adjacent to I-35. The fact that alternative plans were proffered by TxDOT is likely due to the City’s involvement.
Everything on this project is subject to change during each project phase. According to the report, Phase 3 of the Woodland Ave. to Woodward St. segment is expected to be completed by February 2014. Phase 3 is the devel
opment of environmental documents and schematic engineering. To date, no funds have been identified for development of Phase 4 or Phase 5 of this project. Phase 4 is for development prior to possible implementation of Phase 5, which is construction.
Now is the time to become involved if you have concerns about flow of traffic on Woodland and connecting under I-35. Sign up for TxDOT’s project updates at www.austin-mobility.com. I encourage you to closely monitor this project and contact your local state officials concerning this issue. TxDOT probably will not support the proposed alternatives without pressure by state officials. •
1 See TxDOT’s Capital Area Mobility 35 report, “I-35 Capital Area Improvement Program, Corridor Implementation Plan SH 45N to SH 45SE, Travis County, Texas” (“Mobility Plan”), www.mobility35.org/pdfs/downloads/travis%20county%20caip%20phase%202%20implementation%20plan.pdf).
2 See Mobility Plan, p.10, Sec. 2.5 Current Projects on I-35, Subsec. 2.5.3 I-35 from Woodland Ave. to Woodward St.; pp. 45-47 Subsec. 3.9.6 Segment 6 Lady Bird Lake to Woodward St.