State officials considering tolling I-35, making SH-130 free

TxDOT, state officials considering $1 billion in traffic congestion proposals

One of many considerations currently being looked at by state leaders in response to worsening congestion along Interstate 35 includes tolling the portion that runs through central Austin and making part of the nearby State Highway 130 toll road free.

“You’d move the free lanes out to 130 and the toll lanes to I-35,” said Texas Department of Transportation Commission Chairman Ted Houghton last week at the commission’s monthly meeting.

“Our highway department has lost their minds,” countered Terri Hall, of TexasTurf.org. “(They will be) forcing people 35 to 40 miles out of their way to get the free road. We already know that is a problem with State Highway 130: it’s too far out of the way.”

There, of course, are many hurdles that would have to be jumped in order for that to happen

“I think that’s something that needs to be looked at — whether it’s legal," Houghton said. "If it’s not, (you'd have to look at) what you’d have to do to get it across that goal line.”

“Clearly, all options remain on the table," said TxDOT Director of Planning Marc Williams. "We certainly have an opportunity to look at, really, the practical nature of doing that, and clearly spell out the pros and cons associated with making that adjustment."

Hall said she wasn't buying it.

“Those businesses and the residents planted their lives there when it was a free road (and) now to turn around and do a complete bait-and-switch on these folks is really disingenuous,” Hall said.

Texas Department of Transportation and local officials are considering more than $1 billion in ideas that would help alleviate some of the congestion on I-35 through Austin, including adding toll lanes and redesigning frontage roads.

According to the Texas Tribune, the Austin City Council in October approved a $2 million allocation toward TxDOT to “evaluate creative solutions to reduce congestion and improve safety and mobility along and across I-35.”

Redesignating a portion of SH 130 as I-35 and tolling those lanes remains an option, officials told the Texas Tribune.

Texas Department of Transportation also released a statement:

“Our team is constantly looking for ways to safely address congestion and this idea was yet another one of those. There are many challenges both on the state and federal level that need evaluation before action could further take place.”

KSAT reporter David Sears contributed to this report.

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