Anyone that drives a car in Austin knows that the traffic here can be horrendous. Driving on I-35 can be the bane of one’s existence as traffic can come to almost a standstill at any point in the day. Efforts have been made to expand highways and add more driving lanes but that just seems to make the traffic even worse. Where does all this traffic come from?

According to a “Thrill list” article in 2016, Austin had the 10th worst traffic in the US and the Texas Department of Transportation named the Austin section of I-35 as the worst traffic in Texas. Also the INRIX traffic report in 2012 ranked Austin as the 4th worst congested city in the US (Netscher, 2016). There was some improvement in traffic congestion according to the INRIX traffic report in 2017. This time Austin ranked 14th out of the 297 US cities in the study and 72nd out of the 1,360 cities studied around the world. Austin drivers averaged around 43 hours spent in congestion based on 240 commuting days (weekdays) (INRIX, 2018). One problem is that Austin is the largest city in the United States that only has one interstate passing through it (Austin Texas Insider).

The city has tried taking measures to alleviate some of the highly congested areas in Austin like I-35 and Mopac. They have added lanes to expand highways and allow for more cars to pass through the city. There have been some failed solutions in the past however. CapMetro used to offer more free public transportation options similar to how UT students have access to free bus rides however there was not as much usage as they serviced mostly students only and were cut in favor of MetroRail and MetroRapid (Netscher, 2016). The toll roads built around the city were another strategy used to cut down on commute times and clear up some of the congestion on the major highways. However these toll roads are go so far out of the way that drivers are not willing to pay the toll to take these routes (Austin Texas Insider). Another way Austin has been trying to alleviate traffic on the roads is by getting more people to take part in active transit. The city of Austin has put together a plan to expand the walking paths in and around towns through parks and other green spaces. There have also been movements to expand bike lanes throughout the city. These are some of the other ways that the city wants to use to get more drivers off of the roads. If there were easily accessible active transit options throughout town then more people would not use their car to take short walkable or bikable trips. Another option that has been considered was even to build a sky gondola system that would traverse the city above the congested roadways. This would be a very significant investment that was not pursued after the money was not received for other transit plans.

Austin definitely needs more major roadways that traverse the city to create more routes to getting around. It seems like it could be too late to fix issues on I-35 because there is already so much development built around it that it would be hard to change anything and lane additions as we have seen will take time and cause further congestion until the construction is finished. There needs to be a major east to west road to connect west Austin with east Austin. The way Austin was originally planned was to segregate races in the city and now we need to make plans to counter the past. This is one of the main reasons that I-35 is such a busy highway because for most areas it is the only way to cross over into the other half of the city. City planners must move forward with plans to connect the diverse people of Austin with more east to west highways that will take some of the traffic away from I-35.