Austin-area transportation updates: 183A Toll Road extension readies for March construction, Austin BCycle rebrands and more

Capital Metro and the city of Austin are now partnering on a shared bike program. Previously branded as Austin BCycle, the program is now called MetroBike. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Capital Metro and the city of Austin are now partnering on a shared bike program. Previously branded as Austin BCycle, the program is now called MetroBike. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Capital Metro and the city of Austin are now partnering on a shared bike program. Previously branded as Austin BCycle, the program is now called MetroBike. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

From Leander to downtown Austin, find the latest transportation news here.


Congress Avenue bicycle lanes become permanent

Since the beginning of June, Congress Avenue has had temporary bike lanes running through downtown Austin from Riverside Drive to the Texas Capitol. The city of Austin started construction Sept. 20 to turn those temporary lanes into permanent lanes separated from traffic by flexible posts with stops in place to prevent cars from parking.

In addition to the permanent bike lanes, the project will add new left-turn lanes onto Congress at Cesar Chavez Street, Fifth Street and Sixth Street; dedicated right-turn lanes at Cesar Chavez, Barton Springs Road and Riverside Drive; and traffic signal upgrades.

Earlier this summer, the Austin Transportation Department also added physical barriers to separate bicyclists from vehicles along a 2.4-mile stretch of South Congress between Wasson Road and Live Oak Street. Work began in July and finished in August.

Funding for the projects came from the city's 2016 mobility bond. According to a city spokesperson, the cost of the downtown project was $200,000, and the cost of the South Austin project was $140,000.

183 South traffic patterns change as completion date nears

After reopening exits to downtown Austin, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has now opened a stretch of the US 183 Toll Road between Techni Center Drive and Bolm Road. A new northbound exit ramp installed at the end of September allows drivers heading north access to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Loyola Lane.

On the southbound side of the road, the exit to SH 71 and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is set to move during the month of October, starting as early as Oct. 4. The temporary exit will be located south of Vargas Road. The northbound exit to SH 71 to US 183 is set to reopen Oct. 3.

The first phase of the toll road project opened in 2019. The full project is set to open in January, according to CTRMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein.

Capital Metro begins planning South Austin neighborhood pickup services

Austin voters will decide Nov. 3 whether to approve Project Connect, a $7.1 billion plan that includes three new rail lines and additional bus routes.

Included in the plan is $3 million dedicated to 15 new neighborhood circulators—or on-demand pickup services in which customers living within a certain zone can request a shared ride to connect with a main metro bus route.

On Sept. 28, Chad Ballentine, Capital Metro vice president of demand response and innovative mobility, presented the agency’s board of directors three potential zones to add should voters approve the Project Connect plan.

Two of those three zones are located in South Austin—one in the Oak Hill area near Hwy. 71, US 290 and Southwest Parkway, and another south of Slaughter Lane approximately between Menchaca Road and Brodie Lane. A third zone would be located in Northeast Austin in the area of Dessau Road.

Ballentine said the agency is studying an additional Southeast Austin zone but does not yet know the approximate boundaries.

He further said the areas are approximate outlines and that Capital Metro will speak with neighborhood residents before finalizing any boundaries.

Austin BCycle now known as MetroBike

Austin’s program for residents to rent city-owned bicycles has a new name. After the city signed an agreement with Capital Metro to jointly manage the program, Austin BCycle is now called MetroBike as of late September.

Residents can now use the Cap Metro app for a single ride or a membership to the bike share program.

In the future, according to a city press release, the fleet of bikes is set to be fully electrified and will be expanded to stations outside of the downtown core—all the active stations are either in downtown Austin or East Austin.

”If you don’t live in the core, you don’t have access to this program,” said District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen, who is also a member of the Cap Metro board of directors, in May. “So expanding it along our transit lines that go deeper out into the community is just going to be a huge plus.”

The BCycle program began in Austin in 2013. The city owns 500 standard bikes; it also has 200 e-bikes on loan from a private company available for residents.

Leander/Liberty Hill

183A toll extension takes the next step forward

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority's board of directors authorized a construction contract for a project to extend the 183A toll road from Hero Way in Leander to SH 29 in Liberty Hill.

The Lane Construction Corporation was awarded the $175.69 million contract for the 6.6-mile 183A Phase Three project, which has a total estimated cost of $260 million.

According to CTRMA Engineering Director Justin Word, this clears the way for construction to begin around March of 2021.

According to the project website, traffic volumes in the area along US 183 are expected to increase nearly 200% over the next 25 years, which necessitates the extension of the project to add three tolled lanes.

In August, the Texas Transportation Commission approved a development agreement with the mobility authority, which was necessary because the project connects to state-managed, non-tolled facilities along US 183.