Groups behind I-35 lawsuit demand immediate halt to I-35 Capital Express South Project

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Texas Dept. of Transportation plans to start highway expansion of up to 22 lanes Nov. 15

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), Environment Texas, and Rethink35 called Friday for an immediate halt to seemingly imminent plans by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to begin expanding an 8-mile portion of I-35 from SH 45 North to US 290 East under the I-35 Capital Express South project. The three organizations filed a lawsuit this June against TxDOT regarding its broader plans for a massive expansion of I-35 from north of Buda to Round Rock,

“TxDOT must immediately pause the I-35 Capital Express South widening project while the judge considering our lawsuit decides whether or not this project can legally proceed,” says Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas. “Proceeding nonetheless would be a bad faith act that will further diminish the community’s trust in TxDOT.”

The environmental impacts of expansion are expected to be considerable. The entire I-35 expansion is expected to generate 255 million to 382 million additional vehicle miles traveled per year, resulting in 1.2 to 2.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2050, “roughly equal to the annual greenhouse gases generated by a small coal-fired power plant,” according to estimates by Grist.

“Expanding I-35 is a disastrous proposition,” says Adam Greenfield, Executive Director of Rethink35. “Decades of evidence show that widening highways worsens congestion by encouraging more driving. But that’s far from all that expanding I-35 will do: Expect many more people to be killed and seriously injured in crashes every week, childhood asthma rates and other health impacts to rise, and scorching summer heat waves to get longer and more deadly as climate change worsens.”

The lawsuit that TexPIRG, Environment Texas, and Rethink35 filed in June against TxDOT alleges that splitting its massive I-35 Capital Express expansion project into three parts is an unlawful attempt to skirt public engagement and environmental impact assessment requirements. The plaintiffs are calling for TxDOT to restart the entire project and build a proposal from the ground up with community members at the center of discussions.

“Just as road expansions elsewhere in Texas – such as Houston’s Katy Freeway expansion – have failed at reducing congestion, any congestion benefits from widening I-35 will likely be short-lived,” said Matt Casale, TexPIRG’s Environment Campaigns Director. “If Austin’s suburbs continue to see as much population growth as in recent years – which seems likely if encouraged by a wider highway connecting them to Austin – I-35 will quickly fill up with cars once again.”

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