TxDOT abandons plan to add Michigan left turns to Loop 360

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Following six months of listening to public comments, the Texas Department of Transportation said it would not proceed with a plan to add Michigan left turns to improve traffic along Capital of Texas Highway, also known as Loop 360.

“We’re not going to abandon 360 completely,” TxDOT Spokesman John Hurt said. “We’re going to try to improve the situation.”

TxDOT announced in November a proposal to install Michigan left turns to 12 intersections along Loop 360 from Research Boulevard to MoPac. These new intersections would have prevented some drivers from turning left onto Loop 360.

Residents initially expressed anger that TxDOT did not consult homeowners and businesses from the area during the planning process.

Staff reviewed comments from residents, business owners and elected officials, and incorporated suggestions into a modified plan, revealed at a March 28 community meeting. The modified plan still included Michigan left turns but also allowed cars to cross at certain key intersections. Hurt said the department has canceled the remaining community and stakeholder meetings.

State Rep. Donna Howard, D-District 48, whose district encompasses nearly all of Loop 360, said in a statement that she was frustrated by TxDOT’s decision to cancel its planning efforts.

“I fear this decision will result in a Do Nothing scenario along Loop 360 over the next 10 to 20 years. After the strong opposition to unfamiliar ‘innovative intersection improvements’ voiced at the public meetings that TxDOT finally held, it feels as though TxDOT has decided to take the easy route by shelving the issue altogether,” she said.

Earlier, Howard expressed frustration with TxDOT for not involving her in the planning process. She told Community Impact Newspaper in November that she had only learned about the department’s plans after her constituents began contacting her. She said she would like TxDOT to continue to work with residents to find a solution to ease congestion on the road, which the department has classified portions of as being the 71st and 72nd most-congested roadway segments in the state.

“I believe state staff, appointed transportation officials and elected representatives must work closely with taxpayers to identify and prioritize which Central Texas transportation infrastructure needs deserve the limited funding available and how best to address them,” she said in the statement.

One project to increase traffic flow on Loop 360 that TxDOT already had in its pipeline when it unveiled its plan in November is improving the synchronization of the traffic signals. The department hired a consultant to develop a plan for signal improvements, and Hurt said that plan should be finished by the end of summer.

Another project in the works is adding left turns from Walsh Tarlton Lane to MoPac into Barton Creek Square Mall to assist with traffic flow. Hurt said the department is working on the design phase but will shelve the plans until funding is identified.

Hurt said TxDOT would also complete a corridor study of Loop 360 in its entirety to suss out other alternatives to improve traffic. This could include analyzing the addition of overpasses, which TxDOT has received some support for, Hurt said.

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Amy Denney
Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.
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