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Interstate 35 - Texas

IH-35 is one of the busiest Interstates in Texas. Running from the Mexican border at Laredo, the road quickly leaves the border to travel north, then northeast, across the South Texas plains. Passing Cotulla and Pearsall, both large agricultural communities, IH-35 rolls into San Antonio on the southwest side of the city.

IH-35 arcs northeast toward downtown, and merges with IH-10 on the west side of downtown. Maps have shown IH-35 as running on the east (co-signed with IH-37) and west (cosigned with IH-10) sides of downtown at various times, however as designed IH-35 was co-signed with IH-10 west of downtown. IH-35 splits from IH-10 north of downtown to form the north leg of the downtown loop, and meets IH-37 on the northeast corner of downtown. IH-35 then proceeds almost directly east to Loop 410, merging with Loop 410 for a short distance before breaking away from the city to arc northeast toward New Braunfels.

The heavily traveled road passes through Universal City on the way to New Braunfels. New Braunfels is a large tourist area, known for Schlitterbahn water park on the Guadalupe River and a strong German heritage. Natural Bridge Caverns and Wildlife Ranch are two other tourist attractions in this scenic section of Hill Country.

San Marcos marks the halfway point between San Antonio and Austin. San Marcos is known for the spring-fed San Marcos river, but is also a college city with Texas State University San Marcos, the alma mater of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

IH-35 enters Austin, the state capitol and one of the most liberal cities in Texas. Austin is known for UT Austin, the pre-eminent public university in Texas, as well as its scenic beauty. Technology companies flocked to Austin in the 1980s and 1990s to take advantage of the city's benefits, with the most notable example being Dell Computer. However, IH-35 is an old freeway in Austin, and has reached the limits of its design multiple times. With few other freeway or transit alternatives across the city, IH-35 is often gridlocked.

North of Austin, traffic dies off substantially. IH-35 reaches Georgetown, another college town and center for agriculture, Continuing north, we find Temple which sits just east of Fort Hood, then Waco.

In Hillsboro, IH-35 splits into IH-35E and IH-35W. Officially, given the hostilities between Dallas and Fort Worth, IH-35 is considered equal through the Metroplex, and TxDOT considers IH-35, IH-35E, and IH-35W separate roadways. IH-35E, however, carries the exit numbering of IH-35 through Dallas, while IH-35W starts over at Exit 1.

IH-35E travels through Waxahachie on the way to Dallas, while IH-35W travels directly to Fort Worth. Dallas has historically been the financial and transportation center of Texas, while Fort Worth has been a ranching center. The rivalry between the two cities for parity has occurred for over 100 years and shows no signs of abating, with the current battle over Dallas Love Field and the Wright Amendment limits in air travel running over 30 years.

IH-35E and IH-35W travel through the rapidly growing northern suburbs before rejoining in Denton. Passing through Gainesville, a ranching and cotton town, IH-35 leaves Texas and enters Oklahoma.

With the passage of NAFTA, IH-35 has emerged as the primary freeway access to Mexico from the Midwest and East coasts. As a result, truck traffic has grown dramatically to the point where certain sections of road, notably San Antonio to Austin, cannot handle the demand. IH-35 has been designated High Priority Corridor 23, and construction of a relief tollway, SH 130, has begun. SH 130 is planned to run from IH-10 in Seguin, approximately 30 miles east of San Antonio, north to Austin. SH 130 is controversial due to many factors, not the least of which is the toll. With a parallel free route, it remains to be seen how many people use SH 130 when it opens. Due to the extreme congestion in Austin, SH 130 will probably be successful in the city, but traffic counts from Austin south may not be enough to support the tollway.

IH-35 replaced US 81 from Laredo to Fort Worth, and US 77 from Hillsboro through Dallas.

There are 11 business loops along IH-35:

  • BI 35-A: Laredo (former US 81/83)
  • BI 35-B: Encinal
  • BI 35-C: Cotulla (former US 81)
  • BI 35-D: Dilley (former US 81)
  • BI 35-E: Pearsall (former US 81)
  • BI 35-H: New Braunfels (former US 81)
  • BI 35-J: Kyle (former US 81)
  • BI 35-L: Round Rock
  • BI 35-M: Georgetown - decommissioned in 2007
  • BI 35-V: Alvarado (off IH-35W)
  • BI 35-X: Sanger

Interstate 35 Texas Highway Guides

Scenes pertaining to Interstate 35
Shield assembly posted on the Interstate 35 northbound frontage road at the north end of Texas Loop 288 at Denton. Loop 288 varies between a freeway and expressway as it encircles the city. A full cloverleaf interchange joins the frontage roads of Interstate 35 with Loop 288, to provide the connections between the two freeways. Texas Loop 288 prematurely ends to the west awaiting potential extension. Photo taken 10/20/03.
Continuing north on the Interstate 35 frontage road beyond the Exit 471 northbound off-ramp. U.S. 77 (Elm Street) enters the freeway from Denton to the southeast. Connections with Elm Street west to the southbound side frontage road lead drivers to Texas Farm to Market Road 1173 toward Krum. Photo taken 10/20/03.

Page Updated January 27, 2008.