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Senator confident digging for I-35 express lanes won't be an issue like for MoPac tunnels

Senator Kirk Watson says digging underground on I-35 won’t turn out the way MoPac did in its project. (CBS Austin)

Senator Kirk Watson says digging underground on I-35 won’t turn out the way MoPac did in its project.

Watson unveiled new plans for I-35 in the Austin Chamber of Commerce Monday morning. Part of this “Capital Express” project includes adding two express lanes in each direction. To get that space, the plan is to dig.

“I don’t want it to be any wider and I don’t want it to be any higher,” Watson said Tuesday.

Watson said the plan is to go underground for the downtown section of I-35, but it won’t be a tunnel like the ones on MoPac. He also knows going underground on MoPac caused several delays. However, he says it shouldn’t be a problem on I-35.

“I wouldn’t compare what the engineers on MoPac did to the TxDOT folks that have looked at this,” Watson said.

“I’m confident in that if nothing else people paid attention to the mistakes made my some on MoPac to assure that mistakes won’t be made on I-35,” he said.

Watson also said taking out the upper deck is part of the plan partly because people in the surrounding area wanted it out.

Watson also wants it gone.

“It is something that I have badly wanted,” Watson said. “It’s just a blemish on the community.”

TxDOT is still working on designs for the project so it’s unclear exactly how it’ll look through downtown. It’s also unclear how deep the project will have to dig to make room for the express lanes with the general purpose lanes over top.

Watson said he knows this will be a lot of work, but he says it’s worth it.

“It’s not acceptable to me to simply do nothing,” Watson said.

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