Imagine Twelve Lanes of 24-hour, Interstate-35 Traffic on Mopac That’s the plan – if we don’t take action now
The proposed 12-lane Mopac toll plan includes a mile long double-decker bridge over Lady Bird Lake, through Zilker Park, and wrapping around Austin High School. If built, it would dump toll paying commuters on already overloaded Cesar Chavez and West Fifth streets, while sending the rest of the traffic north to 183 and beyond, including back to I-35. The proposal would add more than 60,000 new car trips per day onto Mopac, diverted from Interstate 35 by way of the proposed SH 45 SW toll road.
The renderings above show the proposed double-deck toll lanes crossing Lady Bird Lake and on top of the Roberta Crenshaw hike-and-bike bridge, next to Austin High School. The pictures don’t show it all, but they do show some of the worst aspects of the proposed Mopac/SH 45 SW toll loop – enough to unite Mopac commuters, Austin High School parents and faculty, Mopac neighbors and all of those who love Lady Bird Lake, Zilker Park, and Barton Springs as the Keep Mopac Local coalition.
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The threat posed by the double-decked toll bridge to one of the most beautiful and iconic spots in Austin is directing public attention to the larger plan to convert Mopac from a local commuter highway to an Interstate 35 bypass.
The Mopac-to-I-35 loop project has been intentionally obscured by the fragmented, piecemeal action by our local toll road agency, the “CTRMA.” The CTRMA is still pretending that it is only looking at five pieces, or segments, of tolled roadway, that those pieces just happen to connect, end-to-end but they aren’t really building a Mopac/SH 45 SW toll loop.
This is a terrible idea that will convert Mopac into an alternate I-35. It will make Austin uglier while making traffic worse. This is a classic case of myopic toll road planners damaging a city in order to ”save" it.
It’s the wrong toll road in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unplanned growth has produced big traffic problems for Austin, but this scheme won’t help; it will actually hurt the city.
While other cities are dismantling freeways along their waterfronts, Austin will be pouring pavement on its own – and forcing the expansion of Cesar Chavez into Lady Bird Lake park. Other cities, including Dallas, are working to remove ugly, polluting double-decked freeways within their urban areas, the CTRMA wants us to build a new one on top of Zilker and Lady Bird Lake parks and Austin High School. If built, it will do profound harm to our national image, as well as degrading the city’s beauty and our quality of life. This is a classic case of killing the goose that laid the golden egg in the name of toll road “progress.”
TxDOT’s own studies show that if their proposed Mopac/45SW toll road plan is built , they will divert a river of traffic from I-35 to MoPac, which will become the alternate route for regional north/south traffic through Austin. As an I-35 bypass, a Mopac/SH 45 bypass would be nine miles shorter than the SH 130 bypass. For interregional traffic going to and from US 183, the proposed Mopac/SH 45 SW toll loop would become the preferred route.
CTRMA argues that the four extra toll lanes are being proposed as a means of easing Austin traffic. In reality they will choke Central Austin traffic by pouring tens of thousands of extra cars onto Caesar Chavez and Fifth Streets, which cannot handle the traffic increase. Because there’s not enough right-of-way on Fifth, the only way to “fix” this nightmare will be to widen Cesar Chavez St., paving more Lady Bird Lake park land and further ruining the tranquility and beauty of the lake.
We are being asked to sacrifice our heritage and ruin the city’s quality of life so we can move Hays County toll traffic into the city faster and cut ten minutes off the drive time between San Antonio and Dallas.
“Pave Paradise and Put Up A Parking Lot” should be the honorary title of the South MoPac/SH 45 SW toll loop. It’s everything that Austin’s not supposed to be – paving our most treasured river front property, paving our most favored and iconic central city park, paving Austin High School, paving the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and paving endangered species habitats and critical recharge lands for the soul of Austin, Barton Springs.
It doesn’t have to be this way! It’s time to tell the CTRMA and all of our local officials to stop the piecemeal study and construction of the Mopac/45SW tolled loop. The 4-toll lane Mopac proposal and the SH 45 SW Phase I segment should both be put on the shelf until we have an honest, comprehensive study of the entire Mopac/45SW loop project.