Breaking News
More () »

'Cap and Stitch,' an above-highway greenspace project, presented to Austin City Council

"I-35 has really been this physical barrier and we have this opportunity to really reconnect some of the connective tissue of our community," said Mike Trimble.

AUSTIN, Texas — The City of Austin's Corridor Program and the Downtown Austin Alliance are looking into a “cap and stitch” proposal, a project in addition to the Texas Department of Transportation's I-35 expansion and revamp project.

This proposal, which is not funded with the budget secured by TxDOT for the highway expansion, will help unify East Austin with the downtown corridor, as well as enhance single-vehicle, pedestrian and transit mobility, according to officials.

TxDOT is planning to reconstruct I-35 through Central Austin as part of the I-35 Capital Express Central Project. Initial plans for the significant upgrade include removing the upper decks and lowering the highway between Airport Boulevard and Cesar Chavez Street. Construction could begin as early as 2025 at an estimated cost of $5 billion.

"We have this opportunity to really reclaim city space where, right now, it’s just highway space," said Mike Trimble, director of the City of Austin's Corridor Program.

Trimble describes the cap and stitch project as an above-highway gathering and green space that all Austinites will be able to enjoy.

"More buffer spaces, more landscaping, plantings and things like that," Trimble listed. "Maybe more art opportunities."

There are two parts to the project, the cap and the stitch:

The Downtown Austin Alliance describes the cap as "a large deck plaza that runs north/south over portions of a sunken freeway that can be designed to support soil, trees, people and buildings."

It says caps will greatly improve connectivity and improve the surrounding businesses and neighborhoods.

The organization says the stitches in the proposal are a "widened bridge over a lowered highway that runs east to west with wide sidewalks, bike lanes, seating areas and supportive green space that reduces noise and sound pollution and makes crossing safe and inviting."

“When you think about the 11th Street bridge, it's not a very comfortable bridge to cross if you’re in anything other than a car," Trimble said. "So that would create a more comfortable crossing.”

Trimble also said that the cap and stitch project is a chance to bridge communities in Austin.

"I-35 has really been this physical barrier and we have this opportunity to really reconnect some of the connective tissue of our community," said Trimble.

Trimble noted that, since its construction in 1950, officials have referred to I-35 as both a physical and symbolic barrier segregating East Austin, and its traditionally Black and Latino neighborhoods, from the downtown corridor.

Trimble said the City will be going out into the community throughout 2023 asking for feedback regarding what the public would want to see out of the cap and stitch areas. Currently, the plan is for the cap and stitch to be downtown from Cesar Chavez to Eighth Street. However, there are opportunities totaling in 15 to 17 acres worth of space for other cap and stitch projects from that area northward.

Those with questions on the cap and stitch proposal, as well as upcoming I-35 improvements, can contact city leaders by calling 512-974-7898 or by emailing OurFuture35@austintexas.gov.

Boomtown is KVUE's series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more Boomtown stories, head to KVUE.com/Boomtown.

Natalie Haddad on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

KVUE on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Before You Leave, Check This Out