By Bill Oakey – November 2, 2017
The new “Capital Express” proposal to improve I-35 may be the most important Austin transportation initiative in our lifetime. To not “get it right” would be a monumental mistake. Every local official has a big stake in the process. I believe that the City and Travis County should review the proposal, consider it carefully, and get clear, detailed answers to several very serious questions.
TxDot’s initial announcement to the media was severely lacking in the most basic, common-sense details that almost any citizen would want to know. As a result, the public reaction in comments to the American-Statesman and other forums ranges from skepticism to outright condemnation. The announcement was a major public relations disaster.
Here is a list of questions that I am asking our local officials to pose to TxDot and the principal players who developed the proposal. Of course I respect the fact that they may have additional questions of their own.
These Are Very Basic Questions
1. If the highway will not be made any wider, how would the proposal add vehicle capacity?
2. Does the plan add new lanes by making all lanes narrower, as was done on MoPac?
3. What will be the total number of lanes in each direction?
4. If the upper deck from MLK to Airport Blvd. is eliminated, wouldn’t that by itself result in a net loss of vehicle capacity?
5. Why not keep the upper deck and preserve that vehicle capacity?
6. What is the total number of lane-miles on I-35 today vs. total lane-miles under the Capital Express proposal?
7. What is the net gain or net loss in free lane-miles?
8. Why not have just two managed toll lanes instead of four?
9. Starting from this year’s vehicle load, how many additional vehicles are projected to be using I-35 over the next 10 or 15 years? And does the Capital Express Proposal meet that need?
10. Are there any maps, sketches or diagrams that show a net gain in lane capacity under the proposal?
11. Are there any other metrics known today or being planned that would provide additional assurance that this proposal will in fact relieve traffic congestion along the Austin portion of I-35?
Please understand that the $8 billion price tag, combined with the unpopular notion of more toll lanes begs for the clearest possible explanation to the public as to why this plan is the best plan that could have been devised.