Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas


Austin’s skyline.

According to MCAT-TEST-CENTERS, Austin is the capital of Texas and the fourth largest city in the state with 964,000 inhabitants, and the 10th largest in the United States. It is the fastest growing conurbation in the country. The agglomeration has 2,352,000 inhabitants (2021).



Austin is located in Central Texas, about 100 miles northeast of San Antonio, 230 miles northwest of Houston, and 290 miles southwest of Dallas. These cities form the Texas Triangle, a region that encompasses most of the Texan population. Austin is located on the Colorado River, a regional river that flows southeast to the Gulf of Mexico.


Austin is located on the edge of the Texas Hill Country, a hilly and forested area. Austin is the only major city in Texas in such a landscape. To the east and north are flatter prairies, but with quite a lot of forest. The Colorado River meanders through the hills west of Austin and is dammed in Lake Travis west of Austin.


Austin has less heavy industry than other Texas cities, but is important as an office center and for the high-tech industry. The IT industry in particular is strongly represented in Austin and has become a formidable competitor to Silicon Valley as the cost of living in Austin is significantly lower than the San Francisco Bay Area, housing in particular is much more affordable.

Urban Development

Austin has grown mainly in the north-south direction, along Interstate 35. Austin’s built-up area measures approximately 70 kilometers from north to south, but mostly less than 20 kilometers from east to west. West of Austin, however, there are many scattered buildings in the Texas Hill Country. Austin has some major suburbs, particularly in the north, such as Pflugerville, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and Georgetown. The Interstate 35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin is also somewhat urbanized with places like San Marcos and New Braunfels not far from Austin.

The suburban expansions after 1980 are somewhat less structured in Austin than in Dallas-Fort Worth or Houston. This often concerns small neighborhoods of a few streets that are being built scattered in the area, without a clear structure and hierarchy of the road network. While fast-growing areas such as western Houston and northern Dallas have a structured road network of urban arterials in a grid, this is often lacking in Austin. Also striking is that Austin grows little towards the southeast despite the presence of infrastructure and cheap land to build on. At 10 kilometers from the center there are still prairies to the east and southeast.

Population growth

Rounded populations of the five counties of the Austin metropolitan area.

Year Travis Williamson Hays remaining* total growth
1920 58.000 43.000 16.000 52.000 169.000
1930 78.000 44.000 15.000 55.300 192.000 +23.000
1940 111.000 42.000 15.000 46.500 215.000 +23.000
1950 161.000 39.000 18.000 39.000 257.000 +42.000
1960 212.000 35.000 20.000 34.000 301.000 +86.000
1970 296.000 37.000 28.000 39.000 400.000 +99.000
1980 420.000 77.000 41.000 48.000 586.000 +186.000
1990 576.000 140.000 66.000 65.000 847.000 +261.000
2000 812.000 250.000 98.000 90.000 1.250.000 +403.000
2010 1.024.000 423.000 157.000 112.000 1.716.000 +466.000
2020 1.301.000 618.000 241.000 136.000 2.295.000 +579.000
2021 1.305.000 643.000 255.000 149.000 2.352.000 +57.000

* overige: Bastrop County + Caldwell County.

The Austin metropolitan area has seen slow growth in its first 50 years, only accelerating from the 1980s onwards. Williamson County even stagnated until the 1970s. It was not until the 1990s that there was talk of a larger city. The city’s late growth still contributes to Austin’s relative obscurity.

It is argued that San Antonio and Austin are gradually becoming one major conurbation, due to the rapid growth of jobs and residents around New Braunfels and San Marcos. In 2019, Comal County, Guadalupe County, and Hays County totaled 553,000 residents.

Road network

Austin’s highway network.

The only Interstate Highway is Interstate 35, which crosses the city from south to north. For a long time, along with the Loop 1 MoPac Expressway, these were the city’s only highways. Austin is the largest city in the US served by only one Interstate Highway. Two U.S. Highways complement the highway network, US 183, which runs east-northwest, and US 290, which runs southwest to northeast, partially double-numbered with I-35. A network of toll roads is being built around the city, in particular to relieve the congested I-35 corridor and to manage further urban growth.

A few State Routes supplement the network, but in general the highways do not have as many lanes as other Texas cities, with more than 2×3 lanes being an exception. As a result, the city is not as massive as cities such as San Antonio, Houston or Dallas. The first toll roads were opened in 2006, and more are planned or under construction. The new toll roads are being constructed by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA).

Public transport consists of fast, often articulated buses. Since 2010, the city has a network of suburban trains, the Capital MetroRail, which is rarely used. In 2013, 3,500 travelers per day traveled on a route of 51 kilometers.

List of freeways

length first opening last opening max AADT 2015
80 km 1962 1975 252.000
30 km 2006 2019 67.000
41 km 1975 2006 183.000
17 km 1996 2014 170.000
74 km 2006 2012 47.000
27 km 1989 2021 189.000
6 km 2017 2017 98.000
17 km 2007 2012 35.000
10 km 2012 2014 26.000
23 km 199x 2012 170.000


Interstate 35

The double-deck section of I-35 in Austin.

At the time of the planning of the Interstate Highway system in the mid-1950s, Austin was still a small state capital with 150,000 inhabitants and no suburbs. As a result, no network of Interstate Highways in Austin was planned, nor was an Interstate Highway to Houston planned. In 1956, the construction of the Interstate Highway system started, which soon included I-35 through Austin. Austin opened I-35 in 1962. In 1975, a second 2.5-mile deck was added to I-35 through Austin. For a long time, I-35 remained the only highway through Austin.

First expansion of the motorway network

A parallel highway to I-35 had been planned since the early 1960s, but it took some time before this project was completed in the form of the MoPac Expressway, named after the Missouri-Pacific Railroad track it parallels. runs. The first part of this opened in 1975 on the west side of downtown Austin, but it was not until the late 1980s and early 1990s that this became a somewhat longer route into the northern suburbs.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, Austin’s third highway, US 183, which runs diagonally through the region from southeast to northwest, was built. The first part of this opened circa 1989 at the MoPac Expressway (Loop 1). In the mid 1990s this was connected to the I-35, this happened around 1996. In the early 1990s the first few kilometers of US 290 in the east of Austin was also constructed as a highway. Then, in the mid-1990s, US 290 was built in the south of the city, west of I-35.

Toll roads

The interchange between SH 45 and SH 130 south of Austin.

Zie ook Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

Austin grew rapidly from the 1980s and traffic in the region exploded. However, there was no money to build new freeways on a large scale as in Dallas or Houston, so a number of toll roads were built. Most of the money for toll-free highways went to US 183, which was extended both north and south in the period 2003-2006. In 2005, a few miles of toll-free SH 71 in south Austin also opened.

In Austin, a ring structure of toll roads has been deployed, consisting of SH 45 in the north and south of Austin and SH 130 as the east bypass of Austin. In 2006 the northern part of the ring road, consisting of SH 45, opened. In 2009 the southern part followed, which is also numbered SH 45. SH 130 was constructed as a bypass along the east side of Austin from 2006-2008. It still largely runs through undeveloped area. With the opening of the southern extension to I-10 at Seguin in 2012, SH 130 is expected to become a through-traffic bypass to relieve I-35 through Austin. In 2007-2011, the 183A toll road opened in the northwest of the region, the first toll road without official road number. The toll road runs parallel to US 183. Since January 1, 2013, all toll roads in the region are fully electronic. In 2016, the first express lane in the Austin area opened on the MoPac Expressway. In 2021 the toll road from US 183 to Austin Airport will be completed.


A stack in Austin (I-35/SH 71).

Austin has become known in a short time for building a large number of stack nodes with huge flyovers. The stacks in Austin are among the tallest in the United States, reaching 37 meters in height. Austin’s first stack was the interchange between Loop 1 and US 183 and opened in 1989. However, especially after 2006, a large number of stacks have opened as part of the toll roads around Austin. SH 45 and SH 130 only have stack interchanges with other highways. Austin’s stacks are among the most imposing in the United States.


Congestion in Austin is particularly common on Interstate 35, which handles a lot of traffic as the highway runs right past downtown. Furthermore, the traffic jams are not too bad, because the intensities are not very high. The entire I-35 to San Antonio can be very busy at times because the highway also handles a lot of truck traffic. Most of the traffic is oriented north-south and vice versa.

Traffic intensities

Interstate 35 is Austin’s busiest corridor, serving mostly between 150,000 and 200,000 vehicles per day in 2015, peaking at 252,000 vehicles south of US 290 at Downtown, the busiest point in the Austin area. Toll-free US 183 and Loop 1 also handle higher volumes of traffic, with mostly 140,000 to 180,000 vehicles per day, US 183 peaking at 187,000 vehicles west of Loop 1.

The US 290 in the south of Austin has between 100,000 and 190,000 vehicles per day, the part of the US 290 in the east of Austin is somewhat less busy with 40,000 to 70,000 vehicles. SH 71 peaks at 94,000 vehicles east of I-35 in southeast Austin.

The toll roads are partly well used. SH 45 has between 50,000 and 80,000 vehicles in the north of the city, but only 10,000 vehicles on the south part of Austin, because there is less development in the area. SH 130 along the east side of Austin typically has 10,000 to 30,000 vehicles, with a peak of 47,000 vehicles in Pflugerville.

Austin, Texas