The Texas Public Interest Research Group, Environment Texas, and the Rethink35 campaign filed have a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Transportation over plans to spend more than $1 billion to expand I-35 to 19+ lanes in the north and south of the Austin area.
The lawsuit alleges that by splitting its overall I-35 expansion project into three sub-projects — the I-35 Capital Express North (SH-45 N to US-290 E), South (SH-71/Ben White Blvd to SH-45 SE), and Central (US-290 E to SH-71/Ben White Blvd) projects — TxDOT is falsely claiming that these three stretches of I-35 are “independent utilities” to avoid the more rigorous, legally-required environmental review and public engagement of a single larger project.
“By splitting its I-35 project into separate parts, TxDOT is clearly violating the law,” says TexPIRG Environment Campaigns Director Matt Casale. “For such a major highway project, TxDOT should be undertaking the most rigorous environmental review process, as well as giving the public much more opportunity to meaningfully participate in the conversation.”
Rethink35 is challenging the proposed expansion itself.
“Countless examples, including the notorious Katy Freeway expansion in Houston, have shown that widening highways worsens congestion by encouraging more driving,” says Adam Greenfield, Rethink35’s Executive Director. “The public has a right to consider options for I-35 that will actually work, including alternatives to driving, not just expansion. This is also a major equity issue: Widening freeways worsens serious and fatal traffic crashes, air pollution, noise, and carbon emissions, all of which disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color.”
This lawsuit comes as public opinion, locally and nationwide has appeared to shift in recent years away from new highways and highway expansions.
“The game is up on highway expansions and the devastating impacts they’ve had for too long,” says Greenfield. “We look forward to a favorable verdict in court over TxDOT’s regressive plans for I-35.”