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Ditch Interstate 35? Transportation advocates push for new road alternatives

SAN ANTONIO (Texas News Radio) — Some transportation experts want to get rid of Interstate 35.

Okay, that’s a bit misleading.

A group that advocates for the removal of limited access highways is highlighting a section of Interstate 35 in Texas that it wants to change.

The stretch just east of downtown Austin is just one of two Texas highways the group, Congress for the New Urbanism, dubs as “Freeways Without Futures”.

Generally, the group advocates removing stretches of highway and replacing them with other forms of roads, like boulevards and more non-car transportation features.

In the case of Interstate 35 in Austin, TxDOT has been working to putting some urban highways below grade to allow for development around them, plus improve flow.

This group wants to take the department’s plans for Interstate 35 further.

It recommends removing the elevated section of the highway between Cesar Chavez Street and MLK Boulevard, remove existing frontage roads in that stretch to allow for more development, bury that stretch of Interstate 35 and then put a boulevard on top of the buried section of the interstate.

Its concept is similar to what was done for Boston’s Big Dig project, though on a smaller scale.

CNU suggests this arrangement would allow for better flow between East and West Austin and would be fitting for the city’s Great Streets Master Plan.  It would include more than enough space for pedestrians, cyclists and dedicated transit lanes.

They also believe the project would help create affordable housing for people working lower income jobs in downtown Austin.

The other Texas highway on the list of ten mentioned is one more typical of the group’s suggestions is Interstate 345 in Dallas.

The unsigned interstate highway runs between Interstate 30 and Woodall Rodgers Freeway next to downtown Dallas — connecting Interstate 45 with U.S. 45.

One idea being pushed is — like Interstate 35 — putting Interstate 345 underground and covering it with a boulevard.  The other is just removing the interstate all together and replacing it with a boulevard.

The plan would better connect downtown Dallas to Deep Ellum.

A group called A News Dallas said putting a tunnel in was unnecessary because a street-level boulevard could handle the existing traffic.

They argue just replacing the elevated highway with a boulevard would only cost $65 million and generate $80 million in new tax revenue from developing the leftover land. They also say it could create $2.5 billion in property value.

Meanwhile, they say burying the highway and putting the boulevard on top would cost between $900 million and $1.2 billion, while generating only $1.5 billion in new property value and only $50 million in new tax revenue.

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