Austin organizations file lawsuit, federal complaint over downtown I-35 expansion

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Rethink35 and several other Austin organizations have filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Transportation over its I-35 Capital Express Central project, which will widen eight miles of the interstate from U.S. 290 East to Ben White Boulevard and SH 71.

In addition to the lawsuit, the coalition filed a federal civil rights complaint to US Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other federal officials, alleging “TxDOT has intentionally engaged in discrimination through its awareness of I-35’s racist past and inequitable impacts and its unwillingness to address those impacts,” according to a press release.

“This expanded project would bring 130,000 extra cars, extra vehicles through Austin every day,” said Adam Greenfield, Board President of Rethink35. “All the pollution that will bring will lead to worse air quality, worse water pollution — there’ll be more crashes. It will further entrench us in this unpleasant environment that nobody wants to be near.”

Rethink35, Save Our Springs Alliance, PODER, Mueller Neighborhood Association, East Town Lake Citizens Neighborhood Association, Austin Justice Coalition, AURA and east Austin resident Bertha Rendon Delgado filed the lawsuit and federal complaint.

The groups alleged the project will bring thousands of more vehicles into Austin daily, worsen traffic and carbon emissions, negatively impact air and water quality, displace dozens of homes and businesses as well as cause 10 years of disruptive construction. They added that communities of color will bear the brunt of these impacts, the groups said in a release.

“The impacts of this highway today are inequitable. By widening the highway and perpetuating the presence of this damaging piece of infrastructure, TxDOT is knowingly engaging in discrimination,” Greenfield said.

PAST COVERAGE: Rethink35 filing lawsuit against TxDOT’s I-35 downtown expansion plan

TxDOT plans to start construction on the downtown I-35 expansion project later this year. On Saturday, TxDOT’s executive director responded to the filings and said they are without “merit,” defending the expansion effort.

“This is a project designed with the community and for the community,” TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams said in a Saturday release. “We have carefully followed and even exceeded the environmental and legal requirements to advance this project. We don’t believe that the actions of these opponents have merit. TxDOT intends to continue to press forward to deliver the I-35 Capital Express Central project.”

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