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Austin

Austin, the capital of the Lone Star State, is centrally located along the Interstate 35 corridor between San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. It is the home to state government offices, the sprawling University of Texas campus and the Longhorns' stadium), and an up and coming music scene. Austin's Sixth Street is the place to go for many varieties of music from all over the state.

Austin, Texas metropolitan area roadmap - AARoads

Greater Austin area freeway and tollway map, displaying the current toll road system. Map created by Kelly Krapp. [Click for larger]

Construction Projects

Austin has become a traffic-choked nightmare during peak travel times. Many freeway projects have been proposed over the years, but most have been cancelled due to community opposition. The political climate in Austin is unlike any other in Texas, which is part of the charm of the city. Nevertheless, several projects are currently under long-term study.

IH-35 - reconstruction of IH-35, including the double-deck section north of downtown.

Loop 1 - widening and future expansion of the freeway, as well as extending the freeway north as a toll road.

SH 130 - Construction of the first link of the Trans-Texas Corridor, as a toll road around the east side of Austin.

SH 45 - Construction of a 15-mile toll road on the north side of Austin.

SH 45SE - Construction of a 7.4 mile toll road on the south side of Austin.

Hwy 183A - Construction of a tolled bypass of existing US 183.

More information on Austin's Toll Road system can be found here.

Photographs:

Northbound
Southbound

Interstate 35

Interstate 35 crosses the city from south to north. The roadway was originally built as US 81 (in the 1939 realignment of the state highway system) between 1953 and 1957, and completed as a limited-access freeway by 1962.

A section of IH-35 north of downtown (near the University of Texas) was double-decked between 1971 and 1975. Incremental improvements have been made to the freeway, however Interstate 35 is overcrowded and remains mostly in a six lane configuration through Austin.

Many studies have been made with regards to reconstructing IH-35, but no work has been done to date.


Photographs

Research Blvd

US 183 was designated through Austin in 1951. The original alignment into the city from the south was multiplexed with SH 71 along 7th street to downtown, then multiplexed with US 81 along Guadalupe Avenue to 45th street, then north on Burnet Road to the current route.

In 1954, the road was realigned to follow Airport Blvd (present day Loop 111) then Research Blvd. With the construction of the east bypass, US 183 was realigned onto that road in 1966.

Research Blvd was widened to a multi-lane boulevard in the 1970s. Traffic became a major problem with the growth of Austin, and freeway plans were formulated. The road was upgraded between IH-35 and Loop 1 between 1995-1997, and extended north to SH 45 in 2003.


Photographs:

Westbound

US 290 - West Ben White Blvd

US 290 was designated through Austin in 1935, along First Street to US 81, then south across the Congress Avenue Bridge, then south on South Lamar Blvd.

In 1951, US 290 was realigned, entering Austin via the present-day alignment from the northeast, then south along East Avenue (now IH-35) to 7th Street, meeting SH 71 there. In 1961, US 290 was realigned away from downtown and west on Ben White Blvd west of IH-35, to meet Lamar Blvd west of there. This 1961 alignment remains the current alignment.

There are plans to convert US 290 west of Williamson Creek (end of the present freeway) to west of FM 1826 to a toll road. The tolled lanes would be built in the median of US 290, with construction beginning in 2007. Information on the project can be found at the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority website.

Ben White Blvd

SH 71 was extended through Austin in 1951 along with US 183, as part of a realignment of US 290. The first route brought SH 71 into town along 7th street, ending at US 81 downtown. SH 71 was realigned to the new Ben White Blvd in 1961, with the 7th street alignment remarked as Business SH 71.

SH 71 was earmarked for freeway conversion, particularly as the eastern half of the route leads to the new Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The road was converted to freeway west of IH-35


Photographs

MoPac Blvd

Plans were laid for an expressway on the west side of downtown as early as 1964, along the Missouri Pacific Railroad Tracks (hence the nickname, MoPac Blvd, which stuck). The freeway first opened in 1975 between Far West Blvd and Enfield Road, followed by Far West Blvd to US 183 in 1980. Loop 1 was extended south to Loop 360 in 1981, then across Barton Creek to US 290 in 1986. The freeway was progressively extended during the 1990s to SH 45 on the south end, and to Parmer Road.

The Tolled section runs from Parmer Road to Texas Toll 45 (North). This section was opened on November 1, 2007. There will be no further extension south of SH 45 on the south side of Austin.

Photographs

SH 130

SH 130, part of the Trans-Texas Corridor, was established in the 1985 freeway plan from Georgetown to US 183 on the east side of Austin. This plan was scrapped in 1994, but revived in the 2001 transportation plan as a toll road, as part of Governor Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor. The first sections of Texas Toll 130, from Interstate 35 south to U.S. 290, opened by November 1, 2006 followed by a southward extension to Texas 71 on September 6, 2007. Another 8.7 miles of Texas 130 will open to traffic between Texas 71 and U.S. 183 in Spring 2008.

On the side of a railing on an overpass over Interstate 35 was this "Stop State Highway 130" flier. This proposed highway was supposed to parallel Interstate 35 and provide an alternative path through the congested Austin metro area. However, it has met strong opposition (as did Texas 45, the proposed loop route). The neighborhood gentrification flier is also interesting, as it reminds passers-by that Interstate 35 has caused significant damage to the communities of Austin nearest the freeway. Most specifically, the area of Austin just east of Interstate 35 near the University of Texas have suffered economic decline, while the land on the western side of Interstate 35 belongs to the University of Texas itself. This dichotomy between the two neighborhoods is stark, and bridges like this one serve to connect them. Photo taken 04/00.


Photographs

SH 45

SH 45 was designated in 1985 as a full loop of Austin. However, it was eliminated as part of the 1994 freeway plan, with the south and north legs added back to the 2001 freeway plan as a toll road. The first section (Texas Toll 1 to Texas Toll 130) on the north side of Austin opened on November 1, 2006, followed by completion of the route between U.S. 183 & Texas Toll 183A and Texas Toll 130 on April 27, 2007. Construction began on Texas Toll 45SE in July 2007 between Interstate 35 at Buda and U.S. 183 & Texas Toll 130 at Mustang Ridge. Completion of the southern Texas Toll 45SE is expected in early-2009.

Photographs

183A Toll Road

Highway 183A was added to the 1994 Austin transportation plan as a tolled bypass of US 183 north of SH 45. Construction began in 2005 that saw completion of the toll road on March 3, 2007. For more information, see the official web site.

Airport Blvd

Loop 111 was first added to the state highway system in 1960, from IH-35 at Anderson Lane to US 183 (along the present-day US 183 alignment). The road was realigned in 1966, with the original Loop 111 alignment transferred to US 183 and Loop 111 taking the old US 183 alignment.

Airport Blvd travels next to the old Austin Mueller Municipal Airport site, hence the name.

Congress Ave - Lamar Blvd

Loop 275 is the original, pre-1939 alignment of US 81. In 1939, US 81 was moved to the IH-35 alignment, renumbering this route as Loop 275. Between 1954 and 1975, Loop 275 was signed as Business US 81.

Congress Avenue
Congress Avenue is old U.S. 81 through downtown Austin. This bridge, with its arches and eccentricities, is one of the most interesting bridges in Austin. Bats live under the bridge, and then fly away in droves at the twilight of each day. This spectacle has become an Austin tradition. Brandon Kraft adds, "Amazingly, even though the area is very close to water, there are no mosquitoes because of the bats. [Watching the bats leave the bridge every evening is] just an awesome thing." Photos taken 04/00.

Lamar Blvd

Loop 343 was designated in 1961, to cover former alignments of SH 71 (from US 183 to Lamar Blvd, along 7th Street) and US 290 (from 7th Street along Lamar Blvd south to present-day SH 71/US 290). The road has since been realigned.

Lamar Boulevard
The Lamar Boulevard bridge also features an arch design. It is designed as part of Texas Loop 343, although I was unable to find any signage to this effect along the length of First Street. Brandon Kraft writes, "Also, about how you said that Lamar Street wasn't posted as Loop 343, Texas has a lot of 'secret' roads with little or no signage to the effect. Not exactly sure why they're not signed. Most, that I've seen up in North Texas, were designated because of where the funding came from and for little else." Mike Dahmus adds, "Only the part of the road south of the river is part of the Texas highway system as Loop 343. Actually, another segment north of U.S. 183 is also part of the Texas highway system. The reason the parts in between are not signed is thus pretty obvious - they're owned and maintained by the city of Austin. (At the north end, there's a sign which says "state maintenance ends" at the transition point)." Photos taken 04/00.

Capital of Texas Highway

Loop 360 was designated in 1962 as a beltway around the west side of Austin. Plans were to convert the road to a freeway, but those plans were abandoned in 1992. The road was built during the early 1970s, and was completed in 1982.

Today Loop 360 serves a number of high-tech firms that have located in the Austin area, making this road important to Austin's economy.

Austin, Texas Roadmap - AARoads.com

Miscellaneous Austin City Pictures
South First Street
This picture shows the South First Street Bridge over the Colorado River. Photo taken 04/00.

Many thanks to Brandon Kraft for his email from September 9, 2001, regarding the original Austin roadtrip page.

Page Updated November 11, 2007.