A state plan to widen I-35 is getting pushback in federal court. Local group Rethink35 and a coalition of likeminded organizations on Friday that they have filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Transportation over its plans to widen eight miles of the interstate more than its lane miles through the central city.
The coalition filed a separate federal civil rights complaint to the federal government, over the I-35 Capital Express Central Project, which includes plans to widen the highway from State Highway 71 at Ben White Boulevard in South Austin to US 290 East north of downtown.
The lawsuit focuses on the potential environmental impact of the project, arguing that TxDOT failed to look closely at possible expansion effects related to human health, air quality, and water resources; failed to properly assess the project's inequitable impacts of environmental justice populations; and did not seriously explore alternative highway designs to expansion," according to Rethink35's Monday announcement.
The suit also contends that the state agency violated the law by failing to give the public an opportunity to comment on a major change to the project and failed to find a replacement for parkland at Waller Beach that the agency intends to seize.
The lawsuit's co-plaintiffs include: Rethink35, Save Our Springs Alliance, Austin Justice Coalition, People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources, the Parents' Climate Community, Friends of Austin Neighborhoods, Mueller Neighborhood Association, Hancock Neighborhood Association, Friends of Hyde Park, Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association, East Town Lake Citizens Neighborhood Association, Sunrise ATX, former Texas House Rep. Celia Israel, Southeast Austin Neighbors Residents Organized for Environmental Justice, Environment Texas, and TexPIRG.
The Civil Rights (Title VI) complaint, submitted to to US Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other federal officials Friday, alleges that TxDOT "intentionally engaged in discrimination through its awareness of I-35's racist past and inequitable impacts and its unwillingness to address those impacts, and instead doubling down on this legacy through a massive highway widening," according to Rethink35.
The complaint's initial filing is on behalf of 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.