Residents urge Mobility Authority to add continuous shared-use path to US 183

The 183 North project would build flyovers from US 183 to connect to RM 620 at Deerbrook Trail.

The 183 North project would build flyovers from US 183 to connect to RM 620 at Deerbrook Trail.

About a dozen residents asked the agency considering a variable-priced toll project on US 183 in Northwest Austin to include a continuous shared-use path.

“My main concern with the current design is the vast majority of pedestrians and cyclists can’t pass safely through the corridor,” said resident Erick Benz, who is president of Bike Austin’s board of directors. “My wife and kids would not be able to move between Lakeline Mall and the Arboretum unless they use a car. We need a shared-use path along this corridor.”

Comments were made during the public hearing Nov. 12 on the 183 North project that the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is proposing.

The project would add two variable-priced toll, or express, lanes to US 183 between SH 45 N and MoPac. The express lanes would connect to the express lanes the Mobility Authority is building on MoPac as well as to the fixed-price toll lanes on Toll 183A in Cedar Park.

A fourth general-purpose or nontolled lane would also run continuously throughout the corridor. Frontage roads would continue to have three lanes in either direction. The Mobility Authority has completed the environmental review and is submitting it to the Texas Department of Transportation for a final environmental decision, which could come in early 2016.

The total cost of the project is estimated at about $650 million, of which $5 million will go toward adding continuous sidewalks and other bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The project would take about two to three years to build, and construction may also be phased, Mobility Authority Engineering Manager Sean Beal said.

183 North proposed flyovers The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority would be flyovers to connect US 183 to the north side of RM 620 at Deerbrook Trail. The proposal is part of the 183 North project to add variable-priced toll, or express, lanes.[/caption]

The project will also add flyovers from US 183 to connect to the north side of RM 620 at Deerbrook Trail. Flyovers would also connect the US 183 express lanes to the MoPac express lanes. The Mobility Authority plans to extend the southbound onramp between Oak Knoll Drive and Duval Road to provide drivers more time to merge.

Demand for bicycle, pedestrian facilities

Bike Austin Advocacy Director Miller Nuttle brought a list of 115 signatures of supporters for a continuous shared-use path. He heard about the project from a Mobility Authority presentation about bicycle and pedestrian facilities on the agency’s projects and wanted to know why the 183 North project did not have a continuous shared-use path.

183 North project Resident Tom Wald, who serves on the city's bicycle and pedestrian advocacy councils, was one of about a dozen speakers Nov. 12 at a public hearing for the 183 North project. All speakers asked for the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to consider continuous bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the US 183 corridor.[/caption]

“The area has some of the highest short-trip bike use [in the city], and people need to get around safely,” Nuttle said. Nuttle said Mobility Authority employees said the continuous path is not feasible because of corridor constraints.

“It’s important for CTRMA to look at the bigger picture if they are going to talk about mobility and meaningful ways to get around safely,” he said.

On average shared-use paths are 12 feet wide but may be 10 feet wide, Nuttle said. Sidewalks are generally 5 feet wide. The outermost frontage road lane would be 14 feet wide compared to 11 feet wide for the other two lanes, according to 183 North documents.

Resident Bradley Sloan recommended taking part of the widest lane and adding the footage to the sidewalks to create a shared-use path instead.

“The extra few feet would make a big difference in navigating [the corridor],” he said.

Having a shared-use path would allow more people who live and work in the US 183 corridor to get around without a vehicle, said Patricia Schaub, who is also with Bike Austin.

“Without that direct connected shared-use routes, 183 will continue to be a barrier for people who rely biking and walking to get to work, to get home or to shop,” she said.
By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and later senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels.


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