🌳 How I-35 could turn into parks
Source: Texas Department of Transportation
- 6 min read

🌳 How I-35 could turn into parks

Plus, check out which city district you fall into.

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Introduction

☀️ Heya, Austin.

Have you also procrastinated doing your taxes (due April 15) or are you normal? Sigh.

Anywho, today let's dive into what caps and stitches are and how Austin plans on building them along I-35 once the highway is lowered below ground level.

Then, check out which city district you're in and see which TV news legend lives in downtown Austin.


Inside Austin’s cap and stitch program

No, dear reader, that isn’t a crochet technique.

It’s Austin’s city planning-speak for two types of public space extensions to I-35. Austin just got a $105.2 million federal grant to build a 5.3-acre deck-like plaza between Cesar Chavez and Fourth Street over a future revamped I-35.

That’s about an eighth of the estimated $868 million that the city needs for its broader cap and stitch program, which it’s pushing for in tandem with Texas Department of Transportation’s $5 billion I-35 expansion plans.

So why bother with caps and stitches? Public spaces = good in a city marred by a lack of walkability. This could make it much easier for folks to get around town, and that accessibility could stimulate our local economy.

This cap specifically would help folks in the East Cesar Chavez neighborhood easily access downtown. That’s a big reason why the feds chose it for the grant — I-35’s layout has historically been a barrier for eastside folks, who are largely part of minority communities.

OK, so what’s a cap and what’s a stitch?

🌳
A cap is a plaza-like deck that would span over the highway between east-to-west cross streets. It could hold parks, basketball courts and even local businesses. So the cap at Cesar Chavez and Fourth Street could look something like this:
Source: Atkins Engineering/City of Austin

Austin has two other large caps planned: one running between Sixth and Eighth streets and the other between 11th and 12th streets. The University of Texas plans to build some, too, along where its campus intersects I-35.

And since you’re probably wondering where I-35 would fit into this, it’d essentially be a tunnel at the points where the caps would be — TxDOT plans to sink I-35 below ground level.

Source: City of Austin
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A stitch, on the other hand, is a widened bridge that runs over I-35 and “stitches” the east side to the central business district. Besides allowing for cars to pass over, it’ll include paths for pedestrians and cyclists, green spaces and even art installations. It could look like this:
Source: Texas Department of Transportation

It has plans for 11 stitches total (a collective 2 acres).

Let’s talk Benjies, baby 💵

TxDOT will pay for a lowered I-35, but the city is responsible for paying for the design, build and maintenance of these caps and stitches.

And how much of that $868 million has the city secured? About $150 million. And it has to pay its first round of funds ($208 million) to TxDOT in December, per a City Council presentation a city representative shared with us.

Here’s where the money’ll come from:

  • There's the $105.2 million from Uncle Sam, of course (which the city was required to match $45 million with).
  • Austin plans to borrow $193 million from the State Infrastructure Bank.
  • $15 million has been approved from the Transportation and Public Works Department’s 2023-24 budget.
  • And the city’s toying with a handful of different funding sources for the rest.

It will need to come up with $318 million for actual construction of the decks by December 2026. And the final layout for the amenities isn’t due until 2032 or even later, so it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing these things anytime soon.

Plenty of time to fit a Whataburger location into one of the cap's plans then …

— Katie Canales, Editor


Temperature: 75 degrees | Sun: Behind clouds | What to Expect: Rain and storms

Spring thunderstorms will be likely today under overcast skies. The wind will be a little breezy with gusts over 20 mph. It will be a dreary start to the workweek but wait until the end of the week — it'll be a beaut.

Mary’s Tip: Take your workout inside today, maybe a cozy heated Vinyasa class at Flow Yoga. 🧘


What city district are you in?

Adulthood brings lots of lessons.

Learning how ridiculously expensive mirrors are, figuring out how to do your taxes, understanding that there's nothing wrong with an 8:30 p.m. bedtime.

Another, for some, is how city districts work. They're smaller administrative sections of a city divided geographically based on population density. The idea is for each district to have similar population totals.

It wasn't until 2012 that Austin adopted the city district system, aiming to give the city's diverse inhabitants better representation. Up to that point, members of the Austin City Council weren't elected from geographical districts — they were elected at-large.

There are 10 in Austin, with each assigned a different council member. There's a city redistricting every 10 years, and the last one in Austin was in 2021.

Check out which city district you're a part of below.

City of Austin

Say hi to downtown Austin resident Dan Rather

If you know network TV, you know Dan Rather, who's now retired. Well, turns out he's one of Texas’ highest-profile natives.

Dan Rather at Book People in Austin, Texas, in May 2012. Source: Gary Miller/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Rather, 92, was a foreign correspondent in London and Vietnam, then a White House correspondent and finally CBS’s top anchor in New York, but he’s never forgotten his Texas roots. Rather, who’s from Wharton, southwest of Houston, hangs his spurs in a moderately sized loft building in downtown Austin.

  • In 2004, Rather and his wife bought a 3,038-square-foot condo on the eighth floor of Austin’s 11-story Nokonah loft building on West Ninth Street. Travis County values the unit at $2.55 million.
  • Rather and his wife also own a 666-square-foot, second-floor unit in the Nokonah, which they bought in 2018 and which Travis County values at $449,700. It’s not clear how they use that unit. Other high-profile Nokonah owners have included the late Gov. Ann Richards, Mack Brown and the late UT baseball coach Augie Garrido.

Rather chose a good time to hop on the downtown Austin train; the Nokonah helped lead Austin’s early-2000s downtown condo market boom, joining the other early mid-rise condo buildings like the Plaza Lofts and the Austin City Lofts that predated taller condo buildings on Austin’s skyline.

Rather hasn’t commented publicly on his Austin condo, but he optimistically tweeted in June 2020: “On a walk through Austin, TX, I came across a handmade sign in a store window: ‘Take care of yourself. There are some wonderful days ahead. Dream big.’ That’s the spirit. Now let’s work to make it a reality.”

— Bob Goldsborough, Contributing Reporter


Were so glad you found us. Find our bios and contact info here, or reach out at hello@austindaily.com. Behind todays send: Katie Canales, Mary Wasson and Bob Goldsborough.