and needs replacing
Experience I-35 today, TxDOT’s expansion, and the Rethink35 boulevard
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Expanding I-35 will have disastrous consequences.
Click on a section to find out more.
Congestion will get worse.
TxDOT has expanded highways for years, even though they know it doesn’t work. Widening highways worsens congestion by encouraging more driving, a phenomenon known as “induced demand”. When Houston’s Katy Freeway (pictured) was widened to 23 lanes, evening commutes got 19 minutes longer.
Austinites already spend over 100 hours a year stuck in traffic. With an expanded I-35, they’ll spend even more time behind the wheel.
Deaths and serious injuries will rise.
It’s impossible to describe the pain of suddenly, tragically losing a loved one. And yet, every year 25 percent of all traffic-related fatalities in Austin happen on I-35. Widening I-35 will increase vehicle speeds outside of rush hour, meaning more people will die and suffer life-changing injuries.
Taxes will go up.
Widening I-35 is projected to cost over $8 billion – a staggering figure that’s almost certain to rise if the project gets underway. Other increased costs – including higher long term maintenance, dealing with a growing number of crashes, and of course future highway expansions – will surely follow.
Texas will have to balance its books sooner or later, meaning higher taxes for us all.
“I’ve been on Houston’s Katy Freeway after it was widened. It’s a miserable experience and takes forever. Do not widen I-35 to 20 lanes!”
Victoria, Austin resident
To dismantle Austin’s racist legacy we must dismantle I-35.
This would bring profound benefits, especially to marginalized communities.
A dangerous, polluted environment
A beautiful and popular place to go
(Play with the slider to compare I-35 today with the boulevard proposal)
No dedicated space for bicycles
No space for public transportation
12 travel lanes only for automobiles
People-moving capacity per hour: 56,000
Wide, tree-lined sidewalks
Protected bicycle lanes
Dedicated bus lanes and one day maybe trains to San Antonio… and beyond!
A more sensible number of automobile lanes
People-moving capacity per hour: 118,000
Note: The above boulevard is a concept, not a proposed design. Depending on a community process, the final design will likely change significantly.
An eye-level perspective of the boulevard.
An alternate/future boulevard design with regional trains in the center.
Why a boulevard is the right choice for Austin
Click on a section to explore the benefits of a boulevard.
Getting around Austin will get quicker, safer, and more pleasant.
1. More transportation choice. 55% of Austinites wouldn’t drive if they had safe alternatives. A boulevard will give people the choice to walk, bicycle, or get public transportation.
2. Reaching destinations more quickly. People take less space when walking, bicycling, and taking public transportation. A boulevard with wider sidewalks, bike lanes, bus lanes, and train lines will get more people more quickly to their destinations.
There will be enormous health and environmental benefits.
1. Cleaner air. Fewer cars means cleaner air and healthier lungs, especially for nearby communities.
2. Safer streets. Tree-lined sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and public transportation will offer safe ways to get around that weren’t possible before. This will save lives.
3. More active lifestyles. A boulevard will make walking and bicycling easier and more enjoyable than ever.
4. Positive climate change impacts. Transportation accounts for 36% of Austin’s carbon emissions. A boulevard will greatly increase the use of sustainable transportation and slash carbon emissions.
Gentrification and displacement will be addressed.
Many people see I-35 as a wall protecting eastern neighborhoods from gentrification. However, it’s unacceptable for nearby communities – especially children, the elderly, the poor, and people of color – to pay the price with respiratory illnesses, constant noise, and traffic crashes.
With the following measures, a boulevard will bring significant benefits into surrounding neighborhoods while preventing displacement. Let’s get this right.
1. Create affordable housing. A boulevard will open up land that I-35 previously consumed. A high percentage of new development along the boulevard should go to affordable housing and previously displaced households should have first right of refusal.
2. Divert new tax revenues to anti-displacement programs. New development will create significant new tax revenues. The City of Austin should allocate a portion of such income toward anti-displacement programs in neighboring communities.
3. Get input from local communities before any changes. Nearby communities should have the final say to ensure that a boulevard increases equity and prevents displacement.
Austin will become more beautiful and pleasant.
Imagine life with a boulevard. Happy families strolling past sidewalk cafes, neighbors catching up on the street, and local Austin businesses making us proud. This would be a stunning addition to downtown.
The community should help design the boulevard. A boulevard has the potential to be one of Texas’s most iconic places. The community should lead the task of setting the character of new development along the boulevard. The result will be a beautiful place that feels uniquely Austin.
Excited about the boulevard? Sign our petition!
Won’t replacing I-35 with a boulevard make it harder to get around? No. Here’s why.
Click on any section to find out more.
Many people will happily stop driving and use alternatives.
55% of Austinites would prefer to get around in other ways other than driving. A boulevard would allow more people to stop driving and take congestion-free transportation such as public transportation, walking, and bicycling.
With Austin’s historic vote of $7bn for Project Connect, options other than driving will greatly improve in the years to come.
Non-local traffic can choose to go around town, not through it
Major highways running around town, not through it, is not only the norm across the US, it’s the norm in Texas. Non-local traffic reaching city limits can choose to continue on the highway around town or take the business route / boulevard through town.
TxDOT built SH-130 for this very purpose. It’s time to use it!
Image credit: Brian Nunnery
Highway to boulevard conversions have worked every time
A growing number of cities, including San Francisco, Rochester, and Portland, have replaced their downtown highways. Many other cities are considering doing the same.
San Francisco before and after the Embarcadero Freeway was removed.
“This is a wonderful idea. We need to rethink our city’s transportation system so that our children and grandchildren have a future where they can thrive.”
Eileen, Austin resident
The choice is ours
An expensive, polluting, dangerous, unpleasant highway expansion that makes congestion worse or a beautiful, safe boulevard with vibrant street life and transportation choice?
Let’s do the right thing.
Convincing TxDOT to replace I-35 with a boulevard will be an enormous task. Get involved and help make this happen.
Sign our petition as an individual and/or a business/organization.
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Donate and help us reach 10,000+ Austinites.
Ask a question / Join our team.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Rethink35 is a grassroots campaign by local residents to convert I-35 through Austin into a boulevard.
To find out more, contact Adam Greenfield at email@example.com.