“The objective is they want to connect [US] 183 to MoPac with toll lanes, and they want to force people on the toll lanes, and the way the toll roads can get support for that is say we’re making a bicycle lane,” said resident Tom McKay, who owns 10 commercial properties on Jollyville Road.
Reducing the number of travel lanes on roadways is a concept used by city planners to create safer biking opportunities, according to the city.
Often called right-sizing or road diets, Austin has enacted the technique on 37 roadways since 1999, including Mesa and Amherst drives and Duval Road.
McKay said right-sizing did not work on Kramer Lane.
“It has so thoroughly congested that area that people [who work in the area] could no longer go to lunch in a half hour,” he said.
The concept to reduce traffic lanes on Jollyville arose from a planning study being conducted by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the region’s transportation planner.
The Near Northwest Case Study is considering how to create more walking and biking facilities in the US 183 corridor and connecting streets, including Jollyville, Pond Springs, Spicewood Springs and Anderson Mill roads.
CAMPO Regional Planning Manager Kelly Porter said the goal is provide anyone of any age or ability with safe biking and walking options near US 183.
“You would essentially be able to safely ride a bike or walk on very high-quality facilities all the way from MoPac, [the Arboretum] and The Domain on the south up to Cedar Park in the north,” he said.
Concepts would also include shade, lighting and signage, Porter said.
Once the study is completed in April, proposed concepts will be included as an appendix in CAMPO’s Regional Active Transportation Plan for the six-county region as well as the agency’s 2045 long-range transportation plan that is also under development.
What is key to note, Porter said, is the concepts, including reducing Jollyville to three lanes, are just ideas.
“It’s basically a guideline for local governments to look at it and know what some of the best practices are as they go to implement things, but of course nothing is mandatory,” Porter said.
All ages and abilities
Presenting concepts is where CAMPO’s role ends, and any further planning and implementation falls to the city.
Nathan Wilkes, an engineer with the Austin Transportation Department’s active transportation and street design division, said the city would next conduct a detailed traffic modeling study on Jollyville that would tally the number of vehicle turns at every intersection, direction and peak travel times.
Wilkes said the city would also work with residents to address any concerns before moving forward with a project.
At this point, Wilkes said the city does not plan to further study Jollyville until the 183 North project, which would add two toll lanes and a fourth nontolled lane, is complete because it could change traffic patterns.
“Jollyville and the 183 corridor, Pond Springs, doesn’t at all accommodate users of all ages and abilities,” Wilkes said. “It’s a very real problem, and we need to put our best thinking forward and [look at] what are the ways to realistically address that problem.”
Besides a three-lane option, the city is also considering a five-lane option that keeps all travel lanes and expands the right of way for separated biking and walking facilities. However, with a price of $42 million, the city wanted to consider other options, Wilkes said.
“If we only had one very capital-intensive option and there was another viable option we weren’t exploring, we felt that wouldn’t be doing due diligence to the universe of possibilities,” he said.
Dr. Seth Briggs, who owns Austin Orthodontics on Jollyville Road, said removing traffic lanes would affect his patients, most of whom live nearby.
“Because Austin is so packed already, I don’t think the concept of taking away traffic lanes makes sense at all,” he said.
However, Briggs said he would support the five-lane option because he sees a need for more sidewalks on Jollyville. The area in front of Briggs’ practice is a large drainage ditch.
“If they had a nice sidewalk, little kids on their bikes would probably stick to the sidewalk and families could walk,” Briggs said.