Texas

What might Austin’s I-35 “close and stitch” program look like?

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Mobility Committee received an update Jan. 19 on the city’s Our Future 35 Cap and Stitch program, which is being implemented in conjunction with the Texas Department of Transportation’s Interstate 35 Expansion Project near downtown.

The presentation presented the program schedule, potential sources of funding, and showed what a possible cap and stitch assembly in Austin might look like. With construction on the I-35 TxDOT extension set to begin as early as mid-2024, the city said Our Future 35 is in preparation for a 2025 plug and stitch design so they can be built alongside the roadway widening.

What are caps and seams?

Mike Trimble, director of the Corridor Program Office in Austin, described caps as deck spaces that can host parks, public spaces, or other public spaces above dreary highway lanes. Stitches are widened east–west crossings that may include bike and pedestrian lanes.

A typical example of the Texas cap and stitch project mentioned here is Clyde Warren Park in Dallas.

In terms of construction, Trimble said city departments are working on coordinating the location of utility lines or any additional engineering elements that will be required in the roof design. As for whether it would be possible to remove the front roads and close the entire project over the depressed highway, Trimble said it would be difficult given the design elements within the expansion.

What amenities can be provided in the Austin’s Cap and Stitch program?

Trimble told the committee that, as part of the Our Future 35 community engagement processes, key amenities that residents are calling for include trees, bike paths, jogging and walking paths, and shaded structures. Other responses spoke of a push for small retail and local businesses, art installations, playgrounds, and cultural facilities.

The top 10 desirable amenities included:

  • Trees
  • bike lanes
  • Running, walking paths
  • Basic comfort (navigation, seating, fountains, etc.)
  • Hue
  • Transit / mobile node
  • Noise suppression
  • Renewable energy production
  • Bicycle accessories (bike racks, storage spaces, bushings)
  • Small retail and local business

The city is working with the Austin Economic Development Corporation to help determine which specific capitalization and stitching features can benefit areas bordering I-35. As for what kind of infrastructure these domes can support, Trimble said the city is working with TxDOT to analyze the possible amenities the decks can support and how that load-bearing weight can shape design elements.

How is the Cap and Stitch program funded?

The Cap and Stitch program is not funded by the multi-billion dollar expansion of TxDOT. Instead, Trimble said the city is looking into federal grant and funding to match the city’s spending dollars on the project.

Similarly, Trimble said the city of Dallas has led the funding of its Klyde Warren Park capping program.

Project leaders have applied for a US Department of Transportation Community Reconnection Grant and are also awaiting technical assistance from the Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau.

In late December, the city announced that Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, received $1.5 million in federal dollars in community project funding to help cover some of the costs of the Cap and Stitch program.

Our Future 35 sees potential public-private partnerships and sponsorships as other potential sources of income.

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