Rainey Street shuts down to vehicular traffic Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights through March 8

Austin's Rainey Street District has become one of the most popular entertainment districts in the city. 
(Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin's Rainey Street District has become one of the most popular entertainment districts in the city. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin's Rainey Street District has become one of the most popular entertainment districts in the city. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

In a similar fashion to the central part of Austin’s Sixth Street, the city on Dec. 5 will begin prohibiting automobile traffic on the main stretch of Rainey Street—one of the city’s most popular entertainment districts—on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights as a public safety and mobility measure, according to city documents.

The pilot program, which will run between Dec. 5 and March 8, 2020, has been long considered and in the works for months. The explosive growth of the Rainey Street District in recent years—a once modest single-family neighborhood—has raised safety and mobility concerns among elected leaders, city officials and neighbors. The concerns reached a fever pitch over the summer after a pedestrian was struck by a car and critically injured while crossing the street.

Beginning Thursday, Dec. 5, cars will not be allowed to enter Rainey Street between Davis and River streets between 9 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. Although automobiles will not be allowed, bikes, scooters, pedicabs and electric low-speed vehicles—such as the electric white shuttles that often seen on Rainey Street—will be permitted.

The pilot will also create designated drop-off and pick-up areas for cars and ride-sharing vehicles. These will be located toward the north on Davis Street between Rainey and Red River Street, and on Driskill Street between Red River and Rainey. Toward the south of Rainey, loading areas will be designated along River Street and at the entrance of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican-American Cultural Center.

City Council Member Kathie Tovo, whose district surrounds Rainey, has publicly supported the street closure in calling for solutions to what she called a “constant tension” between cars and pedestrian.


Not everyone is excited by the plan, however. Several neighbors have come out in opposition to the street closure. The central gripe, according to resident Michael Abelson, is the ill comparison to Sixth Street. Abelson said, unlike Sixth, thousands of people actually live on Rainey and to shut down the street could cause access issues.

Rainey has seen some of the most dramatic growth within the city of Austin since City Council voted to rezone the single-family neighborhood to downtown zoning, opening the door for bars, high-rise apartments and hotels to enter the neighborhood. According to a Community Impact Newspaper analysis, the Rainey District is currently home to 3,565 hotel or residential units, with more than 3,600 proposed or approved for construction. Since 2010, the number of businesses serving alcohol on Rainey Street has jumped from one to 19, according to data from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

In a memo to City Council in late-November, city staff said they could adjust or suspend the pilot program depending on public feedback. Community Impact Newspaper published an extensive report on the proposed closure and the district's need for a development plan over the summer.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Su


MOST RECENT

A photo of Del Valle ISD's Cardinal stadium
Del Valle ISD approves Tesla incentives, paving way for possible Travis County agreement

The school district's July 9 vote could yield Tesla around $46.4 million in tax abatements if the company chooses Travis County as its next factory site.

Travis County has had 13,864 total confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic as of July 9. (Community Impact staff)
Travis County tops 700 new COVID-19 cases for second straight day July 9

Travis County has had 13,864 total confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Effective July 9, hospitals in more than 100 counties across the state must now postpone elective surgeries unrelated to COVID-19. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
MAP: Governor expands restrictions on elective surgeries to more than 100 Texas counties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the restrictions that initially required only hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties to postpone all non-medically necessary surgeries and procedures that are unrelated to COVID-19.

An employee at Terry Black's Barbecue in Austin works in a mask May 1. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin’s new law: Follow health authority rules or face $2,000 penalty

Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott is set to publish new orders mandating masks and social distancing this week.

In compliance with Gov. Greg Abbott's July 2 executive order, the University Interscholastic League is requiring the use of facial coverings when practical to do so for all summer activity participants, among other guidelines. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
UIL releases guidelines for conducting summer activities during COVID-19 pandemic

The University Interscholastic League released udpated guidelines for schools conducting summer activities such as sports training and marching band practices on July 8.

From left: Dentists Brandon Hedgecock and Max Kerr operate Sleep Better Austin, a practice treating patients with sleep apnea using oral appliance therapy. (Courtesy Sleep Better Austin)
Sleep Better Austin opens new office on West 38th Street

The medical office offering oral appliance therapy for patients with sleep apnea has three other Austin-area locations.

Enchiladas Y Mas is scheduled to open again at the end of July. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Enchiladas Y Mas set to reopen in North Central Austin

Sisters Eva and Carmen Hernandez bought the business from family members Robert and Mary Martinez, the original owners.

Dell Children's Medical Center sleep lab
Dell Children’s Medical Center doubles size of pediatric sleep program

The newly expanded, six-bed sleep lab at Dell Children’s now has the ability to offer diagnostic sleep studies and therapeutic studies for children with potential sleeping disorders.

An orange virus graphic that reads "Today's coronavirus data updates"
Travis County reports 753 new coronavirus cases July 8

The Austin MSA is still hovering near Stage 5 risk with 67 new hospital admissions in the past day.

Education Austin President Ken Zarifis hosted an online press conference with Austin ISD teachers July 8. (Screenshot courtesy Education Austin)
Austin ISD teachers demand keeping classes online for start of school year

Education Austin says that keeping all classes online is in the best interest of district employees, students and families.

Census worker
2020 census: Bureau prepares nonresponse follow-up field operations

For individuals who have not responded to the 2020 census, one of about 500,000 census takers will visit the their household between Aug. 11-Oct. 31.