Kelly Porter, regional planning manager at CAMPO, said the transportation agency is retooling how it approaches regional transportation development.
“We’re working more collaboratively with local governments for the planning process,” he said. “Partnering with local communities on traffic studies will definitely have a regional benefit.”
Project leaders hope to soon relieve traffic congestion once actionable items are presented and approved by City Council this spring.
Andreina Davila, a project coordinator with the city, said there’s not a “one size fits all” approach for fixing the corridor. Instead, they identified sections with different needs because of their development patterns.
The study took input from a public meeting held in October in conjunction with significant transportation studies, as well as lane use and economic and residential development around the corridor.
“All three of them are interrelated, and they all impact each other,” Davila said. “Having a comprehensive study that looks at all three aspects and how lane use can influence economic development.”
Davila said she doesn’t think any part of the plan will cause contention with residents but hopes concerned citizens attend meetings to provide feedback.
“We need to make sure we’re best serving the interests of all residents and businesses who are impacted by that corridor,” she said. “This plan is crucial to establish the vision of where we want to be so that we can plan for that and start deciding the steps we need to realize that vision.”
“It’s going to be difficult as they’re implemented but they’ll improve traffic flow. The cost is going to be enormous, no doubt. But the cost of not doing it is even more enormous.”
–Ben Lake, Georgetown resident
The proposed projects include the following: adjusted signal timing, land use code changes, and sidewalk improvements in the short-term range of 0-4 years; bike paths, landscaping and engineering studies in the midterm of 5-10 years; and economic redevelopment, enhanced transit services and a rebuild of Williams Drive in the long-term range of 11-plus years.
Sofia Nelson, Georgetown’s planning director, said some residents may hope for a quick fix. But the city is still in research mode.
“We’ve always known there were concerns about what was going on at Williams Drive, we had those same concerns,” she said. “Being able to study this corridor is new to the city. So this is the step in the right direction.”
Attendees were pleased the study addresses pedestrian and cycling traffic, landscaping and aesthetics, road connections and future commercial and residential development.
Georgetown resident Ben Lake said he has commuted on Williams Drive for the last 10 years and is frustrated by the “obviously worse” traffic. He said he’s impressed by the depth of the study and optimistic that the suggested improvements will improve traffic flow when implemented.
“It’s going to be difficult as they’re implemented but they’ll improve traffic flow,” he said. “The cost is going to be enormous, no doubt. But the cost of not doing it is even more enormous.”
Look and feel of the corridor
Lee Einsweiler, from Code Studio, walked meeting-goers through the seven identifiable areas that age and increase in density as described moving east from Jim Hogg Road to downtown. The team suggested one look and feel for the corridor, Einsweiler said. But he said that’s not easily done.
The first fix will come in the form of uniform signal timing, Einsweiler said. The traffic signals along the older section of the corridor are not timed.
“Synchronizing the signals on a timer will increase travel speeds between 9.8-10.4 percent, provided there’s not an idiot in the lane,” he said. “But that’s not enough. We need other strategies corridor-wide.”
Most recommendations for each of the corridor sections include: building sidewalks and side paths for cyclists and pedestrians, planting pedestrian buffers on both sides of the street to separate pedestrians from traffic and parking lots, and adding planted and unplanted medians with left-turn pockets
Einsweiler said the main recommendation for the segment running from Jim Hogg Road to Cedar Lake Blvd. is adding a planted median.
“Not only does it do good things for traffic, it's green and looks nice,” he said. “The west is the gateway to the Hill Country and has a wide setback with few buildings right now. The west corridor just needs a continuous pedestrian and cyclist lane along the road with a regular sidewalk on the other side.”
The second section, from Cedar Lake Blvd. to Serenada Drive, is more built up with a narrow landscape strip already required by current development code, Einsweiler said. The north side of the corridor would have a sidewalk for cyclists and pedestrians. A smaller side path would run along the south side of the corridor.
From Serenada Drive to Lakeway Drive, developers would remove and consolidate driveways. The city would add a landscaped buffer from sidewalks with buildings pulled up to an internal sidewalk. There would be a planned center lane with left-turn pockets.
Einsweiler said that historically commercial parking lots were built close together. The parking lots were also separated, with nothing other than the road lanes on Williams Drive connecting them. The newer part of the corridor was built properly with connected parking lots that allow for better traffic flow.
“You can potentially retrofit old parking lots that are separated. If a substantial new tenant were to come into a new commercial space, they could pay for that fix,” he said. “And that’s the goal with the businesses taking over the houses along the roadway, making sure they pay to connect their parking lots in the rear.”
Like the previous section, the Lakeway Drive to Golden Oaks Drive segment would remove and consolidate driveways, and add a landscaped buffer and a planted center median with left turn pockets. The sidewalk on the north side of the corridor will have shrunk to the size of a side path for pedestrian use. Bicyclists will have now gone to side streets.
“At Lakeway, we get more pedestrian sidewalks with thin green belts,” Einsweiler said. “This is the most suburban piece of this. The new H-E-B area would look like this.”
“The Austin Avenue area has so much potential. You’re starting to see some development there. We're looking at the potential of the private property and how to match them with the roads.”
–Lee Einsweiler, Code Studio
Rivery, Austin Avenue sections
Golden Oaks Drive to Rivery Blvd. would maintain the front-lawn feel of current development. This area would have four sidewalks, two on each side of the road. The interior pedestrian and cycling sidewalks would run along the side of the road while the exterior sidewalks would run along the faces of the buildings. A thin center median would be added with left turn pockets since there's no room available for a planted median. Parking would be available behind the buildings.
The Rivery Blvd. at I-35 area has storefronts with windows pulled up to the sidewalk and frequent entrances, with a walkable downtown feel.
“Rivery is going to become urban,” Einsweiler said. “We have it showing more like how a downtown would look, but bringing back the median.”
This segment calls for the return of a planted center median with left-turn pockets, the potential to use the curb-side lanes for off-peak parking, and sidewalks with a planted pedestrian buffer on either side of the corridor.
The final section of the corridor, near Austin Avenue, is conceptually characterized as having “gateway character” to downtown. Renderings show the segment with two-vehicle travel lanes, a planted center median with left-turn pockets and a frontage and parking side road on either side of two planted pedestrian and biking sidewalks with planted buffers.
“The Austin Avenue area has so much potential. You’re starting to see some development there,” he said. “We're looking at the potential of the private property and how to match them with the roads.”
The plan also utilized input from an economist to determine recommendations for potential redevelopment of the Lake Aire Center and the Georgetown ISD school site, which could potentially later house a small-footprint grocery store like Aldi.