Proposed rail line between San Antonio, Austin could possibly ease I-35 congestion

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Jennifer Galvan - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Bumper to bumper traffic on I-35 between San Antonio and Austin is nothing new, especially during a Friday commute. But a proposed rail line between the two cities could ease congestion on the busy highway.

The traffic headache is something state Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, District 120, says is a familiar sight.

"It can take you anywhere to two to three-and-a-half hours, and if there is an accident on (I-35), that's even more," Gervin-Hawkins said.

She tried commuting to Austin during the legislative session, but she said the traffic was too much to handle, which is why she and several legislators sent a letter to the Texas House Transportation committee in August.

Gervin-Hawkins and others who were named in the letter want a study focusing on the requirements needed for a rail line between the Alamo City and the state capitol. The proposed study would also identify potential funding and obstacles.

The goal is to be armed with information by the beginning of the 2021 session.

"We've got the research and the background information so that we can start looking at pieces of legislation that may affect the whole idea of mass transit in Texas," Gervin-Hawkins said.

Research is already underway. The Texas Demographic Center estimates that the Austin-San Antonio corridor will gain over 2 million additional residents by 2050.

The Texas Transportation Institute projected that last year, the I-35 congestion cost drivers more than $300 million in time and fuel.

The issues that Gervin-Hawkins is most concerned about are where the rail line would be built and if it would interfere with private land. She hopes the study can get the wheels rolling on a solution to ease I-35 congestion.

"We all know we're growing as a city, and we're growing particularly in this region," Gervin-Hawkins said. "And so, we want to make sure that we address the needs of the 21st century."

This would not be the first time a similar project has been proposed.

Previous projects were aimed at establishing a rail line between the cities, but they never came to fruition.

KSAT contacted Mayor Ron Nirenberg's office for comment. We have not heard back.

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