The Austin Transportation Department hosted an open house Jan. 19 to reveal the preliminary recommendations for improving mobility among vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians along two of North Austin's busiest corridors.
The city has proposed a number of improvements along North Lamar Boulevard from Howard Lane to US 183 and along Burnet Road from MoPac to Koenig Lane. Each stretch of road is about 6 miles.
"The big picture is to have sidewalks on both sides, bike lanes, medians and landscaping with trees," said David Freidenfeld, a transportation planner with Houston-based engineering and planning consulting firm CDM Smith.
Both stretches of road are maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation and do not have the appropriate drainage systems that City of Austin streets must have, said Alan Hughes, a project manager with the city. Part of the improvements would be to install the drainage systems, level off the old drainage ditches and put in sidewalks. Hughes said new curbs would provide a safer route for pedestrians to cross busy intersections.
On North Lamar Boulevard, the city highlighted the section from Rundberg Lane to Braker Lane as one of the busiest because of the amount of pedestrians and multi-family housing as well as large attractions such as the H-E-B at Rundberg Lane, Freidenfeld said.
"We would just like to do this first because it is needed," he said.
Hughes added that the city is also interested in making the suggested improvements along Burnet Road from Anderson Lane to Koenig Lane to serve as an example of what the final result could look like and how the changes would be implemented.
Depending on when funding is obtained, the short-term projects could be completed in three to five years, Hughes said.
Further improvements pertain to pedestrian safety. Preliminary recommendations call for the addition of curbs and mid-intersection pedestrian crossings so that people may push a button that stops traffic and safely cross, Hughes said.
For bicyclists, Linda DuPriest from VTT Consulting said the city will consider two options that will enable bicyclists to make left turns from the bike lane. One involves a special signal that would put the bicyclist ahead of traffic in the left turn lane, and the other would direct cyclists wanting to turn left to wait for the right of way in a designated "box" to the left of stopped traffic.
Hughes said the overall changes affect motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
"All types are given equal attention," he said.
The studies are part of a $90 million bond package approved by voters in 2010. Another bond election may be necessary to achieve funding for the mobility improvements, Hughes said, adding that funding had not yet been secured.
In September, the city met with residents during two workshops, and in October met with business owners and stakeholders to receive input about what improvements were needed.
The city has also been in communication with Capital Metro, which is planning its MetroRapid bus lines on Burnet Road and North Lamar.
The city will report the final findings to City Council sometime in May. Those findings will also include estimated project costs.
The city is also working on similar corridor studies on I-35 from Hwy. 290 to William Cannon Drive, East Riverside Drive and East MLK Jr. Boulevard.
For more information about the mobility corridor studies, visit www.austinstrategicmobility.com/corridors.