The Austin region’s transportation challenge is stark: How to keep the region’s economy humming, and quality of life high, during an extended population boom.
The six-county Austin metro area has tripled in population since 1990 and is now more than 2.3 million. The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, or CAMPO, forecasts the region’s population will reach 4.6 million by 2045 – that’s larger than metro Detroit and metro Seattle are today.
The region’s growth trends show the challenge ahead. Population is booming both inside and out of the city center.
Travis County, which includes the City of Austin, is expected to nearly double in population by 2045. North suburban Williamson County is forecast to triple in size over that time, with a similar growth spurt is forecast for south suburban Hays County, according to CAMPO.
The location of jobs shows a similar pattern. While downtown Austin is expected to remain the region’s largest employment hub, robust growth is also expected along the I-35 and US 183 highway corridors, CAMPO’s forecast shows.
Residents grumble about traffic congestion, and with good reason, according to several reports.
- Interstate 35 has the 15th worst traffic congestion in the nation, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. In case you were wondering, metro Atlanta has two highways on this list, I-285 at I-85 (No. 3) and I-20 at I-285 (No. 4).
- Another study, from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (PDF), found the region’s commuters wasted 41 hours in traffic in 2020, seventh highest in the nation.
Meanwhile, the region’s transit network is modest, with one light rail line currently in operation, though a major expansion is in the works in the City of Austin. Transit in the regions’ suburbs is limited, for now.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the Austin region’s transportation network and explore the new projects that are on the horizon.