The Unstoppable Appeal of Highway Expansion – bloomberg
bloomberg.com David Zipper
Twelve lanes of Interstate 35 slice through the heart of the city of Austin. But that doesn’t appear to be enough: The highway is often choked with truck and commuter traffic, which is only thickening as the regional population balloons. A recent study named Austin’s section of I-35 the worst bottleneck in Texas.
The Texas Department of Transportation, known as TxDOT, says it knows what to do: Widen the freeway. The agency proposes adding eight more lanes, at a projected cost of $7.9 billion.
Many Austinites are skeptical. The plan would require destroying an estimated 150 homes and businesses and further embed an infrastructural barrier that has served as a racial dividing line since the 1940s. It would also increase vehicle emissions at a time when Austin is struggling to reach its climate goals. But TxDOT maintains that environmentally friendly alternatives to road widening, like investing in transit, are off the table. “We are allowed, right now, to be furious, to break things, to do what is needed to demand to be heard,” Austin Chronicle columnist Mike Clark-Madison recently wrote.