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State Highway 71 / US290 West (Ben White Boulevard)

Last updated 9-April-2001, created August 2000

SH71/US290 West, also known as Ben White Boulevard, is one of Austin's newest freeways. Sections have opened regularly since 1996, when the first section west of I-35 was opened. A 5-level stack is currently under construction at I-35, and the freeway east of I-35 to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will start construction in 2002.

Major displacements of commercial properties were required to build this facility. Most of the freeway had a 150 ft (46m) wide right-of-way which was expanded to 300+ feet (91m+) , and the western segment which opened in 1998 was on a 80 ft (24m) right-of-way. The upcoming section at the western end, scheduled for 2004, will require many more business displacements. The new freeway is a high quality facility with interesting design features, including depressed sections, elevated sections, and partial stack interchanges.

SH71 location
Freeway History
Early 1980's Plans to upgrade Ben White Blvd to a freeway are formulated.
Early 1990's Right-of-way clearance and construction begins. There are substantial business displacements.
1996 The first section of freeway just west of IH-35 is completed.
1998 A 2-mile segment west of Loop 1 is completed.
2000 Work begins on the 5 level stack at IH-35. This phase is an $86 million contract; the total cost of the stack will be about $125 million when completed.
2002 Scheduled contract award for upgrading Ben White to a freeway east of IH-35 to Austin-Bergstrom Airport.
2004 Scheduled contract award for extension of freeway westward through Oak Hill. As of April 2001, only the feeder roads are funded.

Clearing Right-of-Way for 71/290: A major challenge
These photos show a typical scene before and after 71/290 was constructed. The red arrows point to Clawson street. All the businesses shown in the 1977 photo were displaced. Today, Clawson Street emerges from just behind the hamburger stand. This section of freeway was completed in 1996. Similar right-of-way clearance will occur through Oak Hill when the freeway is extended westward, starting in 2004.

Views look west. Modern view taken March 2001.

Freeway Views

SH71 Oak Hill       SH71 Oak Hill
This is a view of the next segment to be upgraded to a freeway. This is basically a country road that has been swallowed by suburbia. Businesses along the road are living on borrowed time, since they all have an appointment with the bulldozer when 71/290 is upgraded to a full freeway, probably in 2004. Photo taken August 2000.

SH71 Terminus

Photo taken August 2000, looking west. This is the current beginning/end of the freeway just east of Oak Hill. The freeway end on the westbound lanes has severe traffic jams. SH71 Oak Hill

SH71 New typical section
Photo taken August 2000, looking towards the west. This section, completed in 1998, is typical of new freeways in Austin, with 6 lanes and a central grassy median. SH71 - Loop1

SH71 Loop 1       SH71 - Loop1
Photo taken August 2000, looking towards the east. The four level interchange was completed in several phases since the early 1990's. The Loop 1 main lanes, 1 level above grade, were completed in 1999. The interchange has 2 direct connectors. There are currently no plans to add more connectors.

SH71 Brodie Lane

Photo taken August 2000, looking west. Notice the two over/under interwoven entrance/exit ramps in the background.

SH71 - Brodie

SH71 Loop 360       SH71 - Loop 360
Photo taken August 2000, looking northeast. This interchange was completed around 1997. Loop 360 branches to the left, SH71/US290 branches to the right.

SH71 South First       SH71 South First
Photo taken August 2000, Looking east. This section of SH71 is depressed below grade.

SH71 - I35 Stack       SH71 I35
Photo taken June 2000, looking east with I-35 crossing over SH71/US290.
This will be ground zero for the new stack.

SH71 - I35 Stack
Go to the

I35/Ben White stack construction page for a larger view.

SH71 - Riverside SH71 I35
Photo taken August 2000, Looking east. This is the existing SH 71, just west of the airport. This will be converted into a 6-lane freeway with 6-lane feeders starting in 2002.

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