Mueller Raises Early Red Flag Over the Implementation of “Super Streets” on I-35 Frontage Roads, Calls for Stakeholder Working Group

The Mueller Neighborhood Association Steering Committee is reaching out to other East Austin neighborhoods to work against the TxDOT plan to reduce congestion on I-35 by turning the frontage roads through the central city into so-called “super streets.” They recently sent the following public letter to the Texas Department of Transportation.

February 9, 2014

Dear Ms. Benningfield and Messrs. Malatek and Bass,

On September 21, 2013, the Texas Department of Transportation (“TxDOT”) presented to the Mueller Neighborhood Association the I-35 Capital Area Improvement Program (“Mobility 35”) plans to make improvements to the I-35 corridor through the Austin area.  Proposed changes to the stretch between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and 51st Street were discussed.

While we recognize that changes will be necessary to relieve congestion in the I-35 corridor, we are concerned that some of the proposed solutions within Segment 4 of the Mobility 35 plan will have significant negative impacts on access and connectivity between Central East and Central West Austin.  Specifically, we have identified the following 4 concerns:

  1. The implementation of the Texas Super Street concept on the frontage roads impairing east-west connectivity and access across the I-35 corridor, further dividing central Austin neighborhoods and having disproportionately negative impacts on historically disadvantaged East Austin;
  2. The removal of the northbound exit ramp onto Airport Blvd. from the upper deck of I-35 resulting in circuitous travel patterns, increasing travel demands on neighborhood streets and negatively impacting adjacent neighborhoods;
  3.  The removal of the southbound entrance ramp from Airport Blvd. onto the upper deck of I-35 resulting in circuitous travel patterns, increasing travel demands on neighborhood streets and negatively impacting adjacent neighborhoods; and
  4. The removal of entrance and exit ramps to the lower deck of I-35.

I-35 remains a tremendous physical and a psychological barrier to east-west mobility in Austin and has long served to greatly hamper economic development in East Austin.   Only recently has Central East Austin started to see some revitalization take place.  Also, Central Austin is a dense, urban core.   The proposed changes are not sensitive to the dense urban neighborhood context, are likely to have a negative impact on the nascent revitalization, will significantly impair critical east-west connectivity and mobility across I-35, and will exacerbate the economic and cultural barriers that already exists between East and West Austin.

The Mueller development is the result of a major public-private partnership between the City of Austin and Catellus.   The planning effort took over a decade involving numerous stakeholder groups in the City of Austin.  The result is a new pattern of development and land use based on principals of new urbanism that are consistent with the Imagine Austin comprehensive plan’s number one priority of building a compact and connected city.  The proposed Mobility 35 changes in Segment 4 are antithetical to the compact and connected vision for Austin at the core of the Imagine Austin plan.

Given the City of Austin’s substantial investment into Mueller and the large number of people who will ultimately live and/or work in Mueller, and the direct impact that will be felt by its residents, businesses, and visitors, Mueller, its residents, and businesses should be considered major stakeholders in the Mobility 35 planning efforts.  Mueller directly abuts I-35 in its north west quadrant and anyone who wants to visit Mueller from central Austin or vice versa must cross I-35.  At full build-out, in just a few years, upwards of 30,000 Austinites will call Mueller their home and/or work place.

We request the opportunity to open a dialogue with the Texas Department of Transportation in order to discuss your plans, our concerns and explore viable alternatives in a meaningful and productive way.   To that end, we propose a meeting between a few representatives of TxDOT and a few representatives of the Mueller Neighborhood Association.

Furthermore, it is our understanding that a Downtown Stakeholder Working Group is meeting to discuss the I-35 Capital Area Improvement Program.  We propose that you form a similar stakeholder working group for the neighborhoods and businesses that will be directly impacted by changes proposed to Segment 4.

We look forward to hearing back from you soon.  Please direct all correspondence to .

Sincerely,
James Nortey, Chair of the Mueller Neighborhood Association Steering Committee

Mueller Neighborhood Association’s_Resolution Opposing TxDOT’s “Super Street” proposal for I-35 between MLK and Airport Boulevards, March 4, 2014