Austin staffers express concern over mobility bond’s 8-year timeline

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Completing all projects in Austin’s $720 million mobility bond will be a challenge, Assistant City Manager Robert Goode said Monday, during a briefing with reporters about the implementation plan.

Goode and staff were scheduled to provide a detailed briefing of the plan to the Austin City Council during Tuesday’s council work session, however, the meeting ran into the early hours of the evening and forcing a postponement of the presentation.

Certain steps have to happen before other phases can begin, he said. These include coordinating with the Texas Department of Transportation and analyzing other city plans, such as drainage, working with Austin Energy and Austin Water, and sidewalk and bicycle master plans.

“We’re very concerned about it; we’re confident at this point, but the pieces of the puzzle have to fall into place,” Goode said.

The amount of work the city is planning could also factor into possible delays because of worker shortages.

“We worry we might not get bids on some projects,” Goode said. “We are worried we’re going to have contractor availability issues.”

Summer construction

The scheduled presentation was meant to provide an overview of the implementation process for the bond, including steps that begin this spring and construction that is slated to begin as early as June.

In December, council approved the issuance of $10 million in bonds to fund engineering for sidewalks to be built this summer. The city’s updated Sidewalk Master Plan, approved last June, already identifies very high- and high-priority missing sidewalk segments located within a quarter mile of schools, bus stops and parks.

District 1 will receive about 25 percent of this first round of funding and District 9 will receive about 20 percent because those districts have the greatest need, Goode said. The city has also identified sidewalks segments to be funded in 2018-2021.

Construction on some safe routes to school could also begin this summer. In the spring, staffers will work with area schools and the public to identify projects. Each council district received $2.7 million to spend.

Because the Safe Routes to School program does not have a master plan, Goode said staffers have already reached out to schools and the community to ask what their highest priority projects would be that could be constructed this summer.

Corridor implementation

On Feb. 9, council approved hiring a corridor consultant to help with planning for $482 million worth of projects from seven existing corridor plans and to develop and implement two new corridor plans on William Cannon Drive and Slaughter Lane.

“The biggest risk to completing the program in eight years is the corridors,” Goode said.

This process will also include public input to help prioritize which parts of the corridor plans will be funded.

Preliminary engineering will take place in 2017 on William Cannon and Slaughter while the consultant drafts a construction program, Goode said. Work on priority projects could begin in 2018, but most construction will not take place until 2022.

City engineers are already starting preliminary work on Slaughter Lane, and public involvement begins in April.

Austin mobility bond active projects

In the spring, the city will launch a new website so residents can view the most up-to-date information on individual projects. Here is the latest on other mobility bond projects throughout the city:

Central Austin

  • Lance Armstrong Bikeway: The remaining phases will be addressed in the bond, including resurfacing the section on Fifth Street from Pedernales Street to Shady Lane and improvements at the I-35 intersections.
  • Vision Zero safety improvements: The city’s Vision Zero traffic fatality reduction plan identifies South Congress Avenue and Oltorf Street as one intersection targeted for safety improvements. Design has already begin on this intersection and two others identified as high priority.
  • Sidewalks: The first wave of sidewalk projects are mostly in Central and East Austin because this where the need is greatest, Goode said. Segments identified for construction this summer include 51st Street, Manor Road, Avenue G, Speedway, West 11th Street and West 34th Street.

Northwest/North Austin

  • Spicewood Springs Road: Preliminary engineering begins this year and construction could begin as early as 2019 to expand the roadways to four lanes from Loop 360 to west of Mesa Drive. The city will also host meetings for public input.
  • Anderson Mill Road: Preliminary engineering will continue through 2018 and construction is estimated to occur in 2020-21 to expand the roadway to four lanes from Spicewood Parkway to US 183.
  • Northern Walnut Creek Trail Phase 2: The project stalled because of a lack of funding, but design has resumed now that the bond will supply $2.5 million to finish it and build the trail from Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park to I-35. Construction is slated for 2020. The bond is also supplying $5 million to design and build a trail along the MetroRail line to connect Braker Lane and the Capital Metro Kramer station to the existing Northern Walnut Creek Trail.

Southwest/South Austin

  • William Cannon Drive railroad bridge overpass: The bond allocates funding to engineering and design to replace earthen walls that will support the six-lane bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks east of Manchaca Road.
  • Brodie Lane from FM 1626 to Slaughter Lane: The project was advanced because of the corridor planning efforts on William Cannon and Slaughter. Preliminary engineering and design work will look at improving the roadway.
  • Improving substandard streets: Several roadways were identified for preliminary engineering to look at providing improved capacity, such as adding drainage, curbs, gutters and sidewalks. In Southwest Austin, Davis Lane, Latta Drive/Brush Country, Circle S Road, FM 1626 and Cooper Lane were identified, but construction would have to be funded in a future bond.

West Austin

  • RM 620 bypass at RM 2222: The Texas Department of Transportation is taking the lead on this project to add an additional roadway connecting RMs 620 and 2222. Bond funding will help with right of way acquisition and construction, which would start around 2018-19.
  • Loop 360: TxDOT’s plans add overpasses and underpasses at each Loop 360 intersection between US 183 and MoPac. The bond contributes $46 million toward projects at Westlake Drive, Courtyard Drive/RM 2222, Lakewood Drive and Spicewood Springs Road/Bluffstone Drive. Construction is estimated to occur in 2022-24.

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COMMENT
  1. Robert Barker

    Could they just finish Mopac first. all they are doing north of 183 is building walls that seem pointless. why not open the southbound lanes for what they have constructed so far. there has been a lane blocked off for years and years.

    • Mopac isn’t a city street, and that construction is being done by CTRMA and a contractor, not Austin.

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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