In 2006, neighborhood associations on both sides of the interstate were empowered to develop a concept to enhance East-West pedestrian movement beneath I-35. The vision was to take what is the most trafficked overpass in Austin, and create a landscape that is lighter and smaller in scale than the one currently dominated by the car.
The downtown Austin segment of I-35 was constructed in 1962 and served to physically reinforce the racial divide that East Avenue had historically represented.
Now, the City of Austin leases from the State the land below the I-35 freeway. The area is uninviting to say the least. As part of the makeover, that area will remain parking, while the perimeter and sidewalks connecting East Side to downtown will get something closer to the “Great Streets” treatment including trees, wider sidewalks, and benches.
From Cotera+Reed Architects:
“Fourteen curved and tapered galvanized steel poles will be supported under the freeway deck, and area lighting is attached along the undersides. Individually, the shape of the poles resembles a suspension bridge – re-associating the spot with connecting. Connecting land masses, across an interruption of the landscape, proposing the idea of separation and connecting at the same time. It is intended to be a gesture – a handshake under the freeway.”
Construction is scheduled to begin as early as February 2010.