Plan to sink I-35 underground downtown


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist JP HARRINGTON

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

Posted on April 29, 2013 at 10:10 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 30 at 8:59 AM

AUSTIN -- It’s a new idea to sink I-35 underground, from Lady Bird Lake to 15th Street in downtown Austin.

According to local newspaper Community Impact, the vision from Austin architect Sinclair Black would cost around $550 million to build, and would generate more than $4 billion in property tax revenue and property values.

“This concept is kind of new and fresh,” said North Austin resident Roderick Smothers, who avoids driving on the interstate when he commutes to work at Huston-Tillotson University. “Getting on I-35 is one of the things I avoid doing every day."

The plan, which is one among many the City of Austin is considering, would turn the existing interstate from Lady Bird Lake to 15th Street into parks and mixed-use development.

Another potential impact of putting I-35 underground and covering it above ground, is alleviating that physical barrier between the “east side” and “west side,” potentially eliminating a socio-economic barrier.

“One way to address that misnomer that things are good over here and bad over here is to just get rid of it,” said Smothers.

“That would be a wonderful bonus, because it does separate people,” an Austin resident told KVUE.

The plan is already gaining some traction. Community Impact reports Sinclair Black has been discussing his proposal with Austin city leaders since March, and several people KVUE spoke to downtown had heard about the plan.

The organization in charge of changes to the interstate, known as Mobility 35, is currently deciding what plan makes the most sense, but Black says this is a solution for the next 200 years, not just for the next 50.