Skepticism ensues over effectiveness of multibillion-dollar interstate expansion project

Lanes being added to I-35 aimed at creating quicker commute from SA to Austin

SAN ANTONIO – A University of Texas at San Antonio student researcher says building new lanes on I-35 to get you from San Antonio to Austin in under an hour is too good to be true.

Currently, there's about a multibillion-dollar project in the works aimed at making it a reality.

Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff is at the forefront of a project to add two lanes in each direction to I-35 in a 120-mile stretch between San Antonio and north of Austin.

“You'll see the first real piece of that happening at the end of the month, where, hopefully, the transportation commission approves that section between (Loop) 410 and (FM) 3009,” Wolff said.

It would be phase one of a project expected to last more than 10 years, but the idea is drawing skepticism.

“You can take the lessons of I-10 at (Loop) 1604, I-35 at 1604,” said Hondo Aguilar, a UTSA graduate student who researches traffic patterns and development. “The fundamental law of highway congestion says that the more roads you make, the more traffic you're going to get. That's because the more roads you make, it's going to make it more attractive to homes and businesses.”

To combat a growing population, Wolff said he's already examining possibilities like high-occupancy vehicle, or HOV, lanes, which encourage carpooling by being open only to vehicles with more than one person inside. There’s also the notion of expanding and repurposing nearby roads for truck traffic and creating lanes for self-driving vehicles of the future.

“The idea is to give the controlling authority enough flexibility, as time and resources allow, to figure out how best to utilize that infrastructure,” Wolff said.

Wolff hopes to see groundbreaking on the first phase of the project, I-35 between Loop 410 and FM 3009, in March.

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