Ben White and I-35

This somewhat annoyingly self-conscious piece reiterates frustration many people have with the pace of interchange construction here in Austin, yet, as usual, nobody mentions the real problem.


Without the frontage roads and ancillary suburban metastasis, this interchange could have been upgraded in many different ways which would have been far cheaper and far quicker than the 5-level spaghetti bowl we’re ending up with here. Other states build freeways mostly without frontage roads, which also destroy the ability of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users to actually get anywhere.

The argument in Texas is usually that access to existing properties must be preserved – which flies in the face of reality considering that when most of these roads are upgraded to freeways (long before interchange debacles like this one), most of the strip malls don’t exist. On the rare occasions when access to existing properties simply must be preserved, other states do so either by shorter sections of frontage roads (noncontinuous) or by perimeter roads (examples along US101 in Santa Clara spring to mind). Neither of those choices, of course, allows the guys who own the land next to the freeway to cash in quite as readily.

Ironically, most Texans, when asked, seem to prefer these stupid things. While I can understand the layperson not getting it, it’s pretty hard to understand how responsible leaders in our area outside TXDOT’s cronysphere continue to support them, given the repeated examples of intersections which completely fail at moving traffic due to the stripsprawl their frontage roads generated (Braker/183, for instance, or Parmer/Mopac).
(Note to self: remember to write item about frontage road highway design severing existing connections across US 183, esp. northwest Austin).



9 thoughts on “Ben White and I-35

  1. I love being somewhat annoyingly self-conscious. Call it a hobby.
    I’m glad it inspired you to continue ranting about Austin infrastructure (not that you needed the inspiration). I’ve read many of your complaints in the past, and found it all very informative. We need more perspective in this town, and you provide a goodly amount. Every bit helps.
    Fin, rant on.

  2. Thanks for the comments, kimmy and truecraig.
    Kimmy, do you love Braker/183 at lunch hour? (follow link in article)
    truecraig, to be fair, count me among the dislikers of the “royal we” that happens in a lot of postings there, not just yours. It helps overall to have you write about transportation too.
    your rantin pal,

  3. It’s true, frontage roads can be crappy. What I wanna know is….
    I think I moved here in 1995, and unless I’m on crack again, I think that the Ben White/35 interchange construction has been going on since then. Should it REALLY have taken 10 years to get it to where it is now?
    Thank you for your support.

  4. I think the NORTH US290 interchange (2222 on the west side, US 290E) project up near Highland Mall started that early, “snail”, but not Ben White (US290W). For some reason, that project was done first, even though the traffic at that intersection wasn’t a tenth as bad as at Ben White.

  5. I think the current phase of Ben White started around the turn of the millenium. It is significantly behind schedule because the contractor doing it:
    A) isn’t rewarded for being on schedule and isn’t penalized for being late
    B) Is rewarded for being ahead of schedule on sections of Texas 45 North for which it also has contracts.
    Thus, once Texas 45 construction started, all the workers -beyond a few token people now and then- were moved up there. Only in the last year as TxDOT started to really get on them. The project is now something like over a year late and still isn’t done. This phase (to Burleson) might be done by early 2006.
    Feel free to correct anything I have wrong.

  6. I hadn’t heard the contractor stuff. I do know that the segment “to Burleson” is technically a different project than the interchange. (The interchange is a separate project from the freeway upgrade to the east, in other words).

  7. I don’t mean the overpass over Burleson, but the freeway up to it, including the trench under Woodward east of Ben White. That was part of the Ben White interchange project.

  8. I agree. Incentives are the way to go for road building from now on. Notice how quickly Lamar was completed. Either that or penalties for not meeting deadlines (yeah, right).

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