As Austin’s population continues to expand, so does the use of its well-loved Zilker Metropolitan Park.
However, the increase in visitors has created unintended consequences for the nearby city of Rollingwood. When visitors exit the park, many cut through Rollingwood’s residential streets to reach Mopac Expressway.
Rollingwood City Council members met May 19 to discuss potential traffic-calming measures and future collaboration with the city of Austin to offset this issue.
Council Member Amy Patillo said in November that Rollingwood began to notice high volumes of traffic exiting Zilker Park, specifically between 4-7 p.m. on the weekends. According to Patillo, one factor causing the traffic is the large grass parking area on Stratford Drive, which she said is used by thousands of Zilker visitors.
When those cars exit Stratford in mass, many make a left turn on Riley Road, where commuters officially enter Rollingwood’s city limits.
Rollingwood resident Chinna Natesan said he faces this problem every day. During the meeting, Natesan told council the traffic on Riley Road is so congested he is often unable to exit his driveway.
In 2001 the city conducted a traffic-calming study, which included a recommendation for no left turns on Riley Road—a measure that would prevent those exiting Zilker from cutting through Rollingwood, according to Council Member Wendi Hundley.
“That was 20 years ago, and traffic has definitely increased in 20 years,” Hundley said.
This could be achieved by installing a semidiverter in the northbound lane of Riley Road. A semidiverter acts as an extension from the curb and would prevent left turns onto Riley. Additionally, no-left-turn signage would likely be required on the city of Austin’s portion of Stratford.
Rollingwood and Austin officials have been communicating on these issues since at least February. As of an April meeting, Austin reached out to see if Rollingwood would be in support of contributing funds toward traffic easements, according to City Administrator Amber Lewis.
Council members gave city staff the green light to explore the costs of both a temporary and permanent barrier to prevent left turns on Riley Road. That information will be shared during the June City Council meeting, Hundley said.
Additionally, council approved a motion to send a letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler and City Manger Spencer Cronk to schedule additional meetings on the subject.
“Until we have a formal letter going, we probably aren’t going to get any type of additional attention,” Patillo said.