3 takeaways from new study to make US 183 in Northwest Austin more accessible to all modes of transportation

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Residents who use US 183 in Northwest Austin say the corridor lacks accessibility for all modes of transit to safely traverse the highway and adjacent streets.

A new study that launched this summer by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization aims to find recommendations to implement in the near-, mid- and long-term to improve accessibility for walking, biking and taking transit as well as make policy suggestions for long-term benefits.

Residents weighed in on issues and proposed recommendations at meetings held Tuesday and Thursday.

US 183 study area“It’s a holistic look at bike and pedestrian mobility in this part of town, which hasn’t really seen enough attention to how to address mobility,” said Tom Wald, who sits on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Council and attended both meetings. “That includes connections to transit, how to help connect with community centers.”

“If we’re clever in how we create our network then we can create places that attract investment and raise quality of life,” said Ian Lockwood, a livable transportation engineer with the Toole Design Group, which was hired to assist with the study. “There’s really no downside to good planning.”

The study looks at the 183 corridor from MoPac in North Austin to the Brushy Creek Trail near Cypress Creek Road in Cedar Park. It will also be a part of CAMPO’s 2045 Regional Active Transportation Plan, which looks at developing a network of pedestrian and bicycle facilities.

CAMPO is partnering with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which is overseeing the MoPac express toll lane project, on the 183 study as part of work the Mobility Authority is planning for the 183 North corridor. The Mobility Authority provided $136,000 to fund the study, which will be used as an example for other similar corridors in CAMPO’s six-county area.

Existing and proposed sidewalks in US 183 corridorThe issues

At Tuesday’s public input meeting, residents indicated connectivity and safety were two big issues, according to the study team. Many said they wanted more connectivity to streets and trails as well as access to facilities for all ages and abilities. They also want bicycle facilities that connect through intersections and a safer walking environment.

“What we’ve got is a fairly sparse network,” Lockwood said. “We’ve got a highway but there’s not a lot of parallel routes.”

He said the area also is missing a bicycle and pedestrian network.

“They’re hitting on some major issues, which is for bike mobility and having a long-distance connecting route throughout that corridor, and finding solutions to connect to all destinations,” Wald said.

Existing and planned bicycle facilities in the US 183 corridorThe ideas

Some initial ideas from the design charrette meetings include creating a network that residents of all ages and abilities could use. This network could resemble a spine with ribs, in which roads parallel to 183, such as Jollyville and Pond Springs roads, would be the spine. Cross streets would be enhanced for all users as the connecting ribs. Lockwood said it would be difficult to add bike lanes to the 183 frontage roads in the short term given the numerous cross streets and driveways.

“It’s not a place where it would be our first choice to have 8 to 80-year-olds riding their bikes when a block or two away there’s a much more conducive street for it,” he said. “Over time with zoning practices and working with the city we can alter the buildings as they redevelop to consolidate the driveways and to frontages facing the streets and over time change the design of the frontage roads so they’re not frontage highways.”

Other ideas discussed Thursday include extending Pond Springs farther south to Riata Trace Parkway. Any recommendations are still in the early stages of planning and would require more vetting and public input.

What’s next?

The study team will take the ideas from this week’s meetings to create some concepts to present to the public at the next design charrette meeting, which will be Nov. 10 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Spicewood Springs branch library, 8637 Spicewood Springs Road, Austin.

The study team will also present a map of barriers in the corridor and drilling down into the issues and suggestions.

Find more information about the study and Regional Active Transportation Plan here.

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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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