Six tolled configurations for a potential project along the MoPac South Environmental Study corridor—from Cesar Chavez Street to Slaughter Lane—were on display at an open house Nov. 10 at the Palmer Events Center. 

Lake Travis | Westlake Transportation Configurations being considered for MoPac South include options with elevated lanes.[/caption]

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and the Texas Department of Transportation are working together to improve safety and mobility on the 8-mile stretch of road. The project team presented a configuration in February and went back to its engineers to develop the new designs based on the public input it received, said Dee Anne Heath, Mobility Authority director of external affairs.

“This is an opportunity for us to share the information and the data for each configuration with the community … to get their feedback on features [and] what’s important to them,” she said.

Based on public input, the project team made changes to its original proposal, including shifting a planned direct connection touchdown farther east on Cesar Chavez Street, adding barriers between Austin High School and potential conflict points, separating a shared-use path from traffic, and commissioning a study of potential adverse impacts to downtown Austin. About 180 residents attended the open house Nov. 10 to provide input.

Bee Cave resident Molly Sanders said she uses MoPac daily when dropping her daughter off at school.

“I hope additional lanes would help, but even construction creates a lot of traffic,” she said. “[Traffic] is getting pushed back into the area where I live, so that’s concerning.”

Sanders said she did not go to the open house and does not have a preference on which configuration is chosen as long as it improves traffic in the area.

“Personally, I just want [the project] to improve the flow,” she said. “Solving congestion is what I care most about.”

Lake Travis | Westlake Transportation

West Austin residents react

    At a Keep MoPac Local Coalition news conference held Nov. 9, coalition spokesperson Bill Bunch said the transportation authorities’ plans discourage drivers from using the toll lanes by charging prices as high as $13.

The express lanes proposed will actually be variable tolled lanes, Heath said.

“The more cars that are in the lane, the higher potentially the toll could be,” she said. “It’s supply and demand. That $13 number has been floating out there, but that is really more realistic based on the [toll] one lane in each direction. I’ve seen an average for  [toll] two lanes [with a direct connection downtown that] would be like $3.50, something like that—but that is an estimated average.”

The Mobility Authority also considered other options, including restriping MoPac to add high occupancy vehicle lanes.

“In response to restriping, the Mobility Authority’s view is that that would be irresponsible, and it is not a safe option for drivers,” Heath said.

Lake Travis | Westlake Transportation At a Nov. 10 MoPac South Environmental Study open house, detailed maps were on display showing unique features of six project configurations for the road.[/caption]

Former Rollingwood Alderwoman Amy Pattillo called the proposed MoPac open house plan a “death trap” at the Nov. 18 Rollingwood City Council meeting. If the Mobility Authority adopts the version that includes an express lane exit south of Enfield Road on the northbound portion of MoPac, vehicles will cut across traffic on MoPac and people will get hurt, she said.

“Has [the Mobility Authority] proven the need for elevated lanes at Cesar Chavez versus other areas of MoPac to the public?” Pattillo said.

Clarksville resident Jim Kaighin, who said he frequently spends time in the Rollingwood area, said he thinks it will take more than toll lanes to alleviate congestion on MoPac and the surrounding neighborhoods.

“I think it’s a drop in the bucket,” he said of the proposed MoPac improvements. “What this area needs is a public transportation system.”

Heath said the online virtual open house, which ended Nov. 20, will not be the final opportunity for residents to provide input on potential designs. 

Lake Travis | Westlake Transportation Rollingwood resident and former Alderwoman Amy Pattillo said she is concerned about the safety of one of the configurations.[/caption]

“Our goal is to take all of this feedback and then to eventually come back to the community with a recommendation,” she said. “We want to make sure the community feels like they are getting the type of project that they need.” 

Rollingwood takes action

Rollingwood City Council voted Nov. 18 to draft a letter to state and federal highway administrative agencies expressing its concerns and recommendations about the options presented.

“The city of Rollingwood does not support elevated lanes of any kind over MoPac,” Rollingwood Mayor Thom Farrell wrote in the letter. “[HOV] and transit-only lanes need to be studied and objectively evaluated.”

The city opposes elevated lanes because of concerns over aesthetics, degradation of property values, and noise and light pollution, he stated in the letter. The Mobility Authority has yet to evaluate anticipated travel times for HOV, transit-only lanes or additional free lanes, and these options should be evaluated and compared to toll and general-purpose lanes as part of the environmental study, he stated.

A plan with two express lanes in each direction and no elevated directed connect lanes is the best option, Farrell stated in the letter. The city supports an 11-foot wide, multiuse path on the west side of the MoPac access road to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians, he stated.