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Loop 1, Mopac Boulevard

Last updated 10-Feb-2002, created February 3, 2001

Also see:
Full report on study cancellation, 10-Feb-2002
Schematics of Loop 1 proposed major build (removed 10-Feb-2002)
Historic Loop 1 construction photos

4-February-2002: Loop 1 Major Investment Study is Cancelled

Today TxDOT announced that it is withdrawing from the Major Investment Study to determine future improvements to Loop 1. This means that any plans to improve Loop 1 are on indefinite hold, and won't happen for a long, long time. (Assuming the study is not resurrected.)

Officially, TxDOT says it has insufficient funds to continue. Unofficially, I think TxDOT is fed up with all the nonsense from the local planning organization, CAMPO, and all the strings that were being attached to the study as CAMPO pandered to local opposition groups.

I hope the local obstructionists neighborhoods are happy. Whether they realize it or, they are going to be negatively impacted as more and more cut-through traffic uses their neighborhood streets. If there is any justice, their streets will be gridlocked.

See a full report from the Austin American Statesman.


Loop 1Loop 1 is called "Mopac Boulevard" or simply "Mopac" after the railroad that runs in the center of the freeway's central section. I don't know why this roadway is called "Loop" 1, when in fact it is not a Loop at all but a north-south facility.

Loop 1 is Texas' most scenic urban freeway. Much of Loop 1 is without feeder roads, which is highly unusual in Texas. Consequently, Loop 1 is also one of the least commercialized urban freeways in Texas. The far north section of Loop 1, opened in 1990, is on a nice, wide 400 ft right-of-way. South of 183, Loop 1 runs along the Balcones Escarpment, an ancient fault that is responsible for many of the springs in central Texas. Towards central Austin, Loop 1 is on an extremely narrow right-of-way as it passes through the elite neighborhood of Tarrytown in a greenbelt setting. Loop 1 then crosses Towne Lake into the hills south of the river. Loop 1 crosses over the Barton Creek Greenbelt and then proceeds southward as a parkway into environmentally sensitive far south Austin, the scene of long and devisive battles between environmentalists and developers in the 1990's.

Today, Loop 1 is straining under increasing traffic loads and has become a rush hour parking lot for much of its length. A study is currently underway to determine the future improvements. This critical decision on the future of Loop 1 should be made public by early March 2001. Complicating this study is the extremely narrow right-of-way in the critical central section, and the high-income, NIMBY neighborhoods adjacent to the freeway. Any meaningful improvement to the freeway will require displacement of large numbers of homes. I will report the outcome of the study as soon as I find it out.

Freeway History
1944 The City Plan Commission of Austin prepared a transportation report which indicated a thoroughfare along the Missouri Pacific Railroad right-of-way, along the present location of Loop 1.
1950 On March 23, 1950, Austin City Council adopted a Thoroughfare Plan which included Railroad Boulevard, as it was then called, extending from Anderson Lane to West Fifth Street.
1958 The Austin Plan of 1958 shows Mo Pac Boulevard extending from FM 1325 in the north (its terminus in 2001) southward to the present intersection of Loop 360, US 290, and Lamar Boulevard on the south side of Austin. The alignment south of the Colorado River would have been to the east of the actually constructed alignment.
1960 On August 6, 1960, a bond issue was passed which included funding for construction of grade separations at several city streets and the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
1961 On December 15, 1961, an agreement was reached where the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company deeded the outside 50 feet of their right-of-way on each side of the track from Hancock to 5th Street to the City of Austin in exchange for the City eliminating all grade crossings within these limits. Also in 1961, the alignment south of the Colorado River to Loop 360 was changed to the present alignment.
1964 A bond issue passed on August 22, 1964, included money for Mopac Boulevard.
1968 A public hearing displaying the schematic for the central part of Loop 1 was held on February 6, 1968.
1969 The first construction on Loop 1 begins.
Also, the City of Austin entered into a supplemental agreement with the Missouri Pacific Railroad wherein the railroad deeded to the City an additional 20 feet on each side of the track, providing 70 feet on each side of the track.
1975 The central section of Loop 1 from RM 2244 to 2222 is completed.
1980 (approx) A north extension of Loop 1 from 2222 to 183 is completed.
1981 (approx) The southward extension from RM 2244 to Loop 360 is completed
1986 The southward extension from Loop 360 to US 290 (the Barton Creek crossing) is completed.
1990 The north extension from 183 to Parmer road, the freeway's current northern terminus, is completed.
1992 (approx) The southward extension from US290 to SH45 is completed
Early 1990's The Loop 1/US 183 4 level stack is completed
Late 1990's Settlements with environmentalists prevent any future southward extension of Loop 1 south of SH45
2001 Construction will begin on the north extension to SH 45 as a tollway
2002 Construction will begin on the missing link of freeway south of US290

Many photos taken during summer and fall of 2000, during severe drought

Loop 1
Loop 1
The current northern terminus of Loop 1, just north of Parmer Boulevard. Loop 1 will be extended northward as a tollway, with construction likely to begin in 2001. Photo taken summer 2000.
 
Loop 1
Loop 1
A typical view of the north section Loop 1, which opened in 1990. This view is looking north, just north of Braker Road. Photo taken March 2001.
 
Loop 1
Loop 1
Loop 1 just north of Loop 360. This view looks north.
 
Loop 1
Loop 1
Looking north from the 35th Street overcrossing. Camp Mabry (Reserves Base) is on the left. TxDOT offices are on the right.
 
Loop 1
Looking south from the 35th Street overcrossing. At this point, Loop 1 transitions into neighborhood areas. The narrow right-of-way width of the corridor can be seen. This section is the most controversial in a study to determine the future improvements to the roadway, since right-of-way acquisition and home displacement will be necessary to expand the freeway. The recommended alternative will be announced by March 2001.
 
Loop 1
This view shows just how narrow the right-of-way is for central Loop 1. The corridor with is only 172 feet (52m) wide, but 60 feet (18m) is used by the railroad, leaving only 112 feet (34m) for the freeway main lanes.
 
Loop 1
Loop 1
(High resolution 112K) Looking north from the Barton Skyway overpass. Photo taken 10-March-2001.
 
Loop 1
(High resolution 120K) Looking south from the Barton Skyway overpass. Photo taken 10-March-2001.
 
Loop 1
Loop 1(High resolution 99K) Looking south from the just north of Barton Creek. Photo taken 10-March-2001.
 
Loop 1
Looking north over the Barton Creek bridge and Barton Creek Greenbelt crossing.
 
Loop 1
Loop 1 The current terminus of the freeway main lanes just south of US290. The missing link of freeway will start construction in 2002.
 
Loop 1
Looking north just north of Slaugher Lane.
 
Loop 1
Loop 1
(High resolution 102K) Loop 1 near its south terminus at SH 45 in the Circle C real estate development, looking south. This area was the scene of legal battles between developers and environmentalists for most the 1990s. Around 1999, an agreement was finally reached to allow a certain amount of development in this region, which is part of the Barton Springs recharge zone. Photo taken 10-March-2001.

 
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