Austin’s Year of Mobility Has Begun

Austin is famous for a lot of things. Almost all are good. We are proud of our music and BBQ and weirdness. However, our traffic and highways are not something we take pride in.

Mayor Adler has declared 2016 as Austin’s “Year of Mobility.” He reported that a study conducted by Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute named Austin’s I-35 the most congested road in Texas. Although it didn’t take top billing, Mopac was also named as one of the most congested roads in Texas.

So, if we are known as one of the worst traffic cities in the country, how on earth could this year be the year of mobility? Well, Mayor Adler explains that, due to all the plans in place, 2016 will be a banner year when it comes to transportation. This problem is not one that is being taken lightly, and many things are in place to improve Austin’s roads. Here are some of the major projects underway that will make 2016 Austin’s Year of Mobility.

    1. Mopac: the Mopac Improvement Project is currently underway. This project will create more lanes as a bypass option for public transportation and people willing to pay a toll during peak hours. This 11 mile stretch will be accessible between Parmer Lane and Caesar Chavez and lower the traffic congestion during rush hour. Since by 2030 Mopac is projected to service around 320,000 vehicles per day, measures need to be taken to insure traffic congestion does not get worse. So, this project will include:
      • express lanes
      • construction of sound walls
      • upgrading of landscapes and aesthetics
      • improvements to bike lanes and pedestrian walkways
      • enhanced traffic monitoring
    2. MetroRail: Capitol Metro is considering making a lot of changes in 2016. One is an expansion to include service on the freight tracks from downtown to Manor. The downtown station on east 4th street, which currently has a single track and platform, is considering expanding to two platforms and three tracks. This plan may move the location a little further east than it is currently located.
    3. The Fatal Five: Austin’s 5 most dangerous intersections are also points of interest in improving Austin’s roads. These intersections were the locations for most of Austin’s accidents, and city councilwoman Anne Kitchen proposes a couple million dollars be spent to make these street safer. They include:
      • West Slaughter Lane and Manchaca Road (South Austin)
      • Lamar Boulevard and Rundberg Lane (North Austin)
      • Lamar Boulevard and Parmer Lane (North Austin)
      • U.S. 183 Service Road and Cameron Road (Northeast Austin)
      • I-35 Southbound Service Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (near Downtown)
    4. Trails: many urban trail projects are currently underway in Austin. Besides the previously mentioned Mopac Improvement Project, which will include mobility bridges, numerous projects are set for completion this year. Here are some of the major trails that you should expect:
      • Austin to Manor: this trail will be 5 miles long and begin near Daffin Land and end near Ben E. Fischer Park in Manor, Texas. This will include bridges, trail heads, and other amenities.
      • Country Club Creek Trail: this trail is already a fixture in south east austin, but expansions will be underway. The trail currently runs parallel to the west side of S Pleasant Valley Road for a little over half a mile until Burleson Road. The expansion would extend from Burleson to Ventura Road.
      • Eastlink trail: this trail is proposed to connect 4.7 miles of trails in Central East Austin – from Bartholomew Park to Lady Bird Lake. It would include improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.

For more trail projects currently underway or proposed, check out http://austintexas.gov/page/current-urban-trails-projects.

  • I-35: this large stretch of highway seems to be causing the most problems. For years people have come up with plans in an attempt to decrease traffic and make 35 a safer and more pleasant road. Mobility 35 was created with these goals in mind:
      • Optimize the existing facility
      • Enhance safety
      • Increase capacity
      • Minimize need for additional right of way
      • Manage traffic better
      • Improve east/west connectivity
      • Improve compatibility with neighborhoods
      • Enhance bicycle, pedestrian and transit-user options

    Austin has come up with a 10 year plan which they hope will solve I-35s issues in Austin.  Sen. Kirk Watson, Texas Department of Transportation and the City of Austin unveiled the specific details this plan will entail this past summer. Although this project is still not underway, the plan, outlined by kxan, is as follows:
    -provide more capacity on the upper decks between Airport Boulevard and Martin Luther King Boulevard
    -I-35 to go under 15th Street, providing the possibility of depressing the I-35 mainlanes in downtown Austin from 15th Street to Lady Bird Lake
    -A southbound I-35 lane that currently ends at 12th Street to continue all the way to Cesar Chavez, alleviating a bottleneck in the middle of downtown
    -Better access for bicyclists and pedestrians, and a gateway to the University of Texas
    -Drop the interstate about 25 feet below frontage-road level through Downtown Austin, stretching from south of Cesar Chavez Street to north of 15th Street.

    Although many changes to I-35 won’t be seen for a little while, 2016 is still the year of mobility. If a project isn’t yet underway, it is being considered. The city of Austin sees the problems transportation causes and hopes that 2016 will be a banner year in decreasing the rate of accidents and burden of traffic.

 

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