“They would say, ‘I’m not as scared of violent crime; I’m not as scared of flooding. The thing that scares me every single day is having to cross North Lamar [Boulevard],’” he said. “When I think of what it is that really harms and divides the community, we’ve oftentimes talked about I-35 as a real barrier. But in this community one of the greatest barriers continues to be North Lamar.”
That is scheduled to change as the city of Austin starts work on projects designed to increase safety for pedestrians trying to cross the road as well as vehicles traveling on North Lamar.
On Dec. 12, the city ceremoniously broke ground on the start of about $66.8 million worth of improvements on North Lamar that will include new traffic signals and bike facilities, improved pedestrian facilities and rehabbed pavement.
Casar said North Lamar has long been a high priority for the city.
“People asked for us to promise to do something about Lamar, and the groundbreaking represents us making good on that promise,” he said.
North Lamar is one of eight corridors citywide receiving a total of $482 million from the $720 million 2016 mobility bond.
The city’s Corridor Program Office has implemented a few corridor projects, such as partnering with Capital Metro and the Austin Transportation Department to add a contraflow travel lane on Guadalupe Street, said Mike Trimble, the director of the Corridor Program Office. This lane opened over the summer and allows buses to travel north on Guadalupe, which is as one-way street for traffic traveling south, at the intersection with Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“Now we’re moving forward to construction on several intersection improvements that will improve mobility and safety not only for North Lamar but for the city in general,” Trimble said.
New smart traffic signals will be added on North Lamar at Powell Lane, Grady Drive and Fairfield Drive as well as a signalized pedestrian crosswalk at Cooper Drive. These intersections will also get sidewalks compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and high-visibility crosswalks.
Trimble said these new signals have better technology to synchronize the timing of the signals. More than 100 intersections citywide will receive these upgraded signals, he said.
“Hopefully it will start to improve where you have better timing of the signals, particularly looking at the peak hours. That is part of what we’re looking at helping the transportation department implement and be more responsible to traffic patterns,” Trimble said.
Voters approved the $720 million bond that targets local projects such as sidewalks as well as trails, intersection improvements and regional projects such as adding overpasses and underpasses on Loop 360. To date, Trimble said about 200 projects have already been completed using bond funds.
“These are the first of many projects moving forward, and in 2020 we anticipate several large projects moving forward into bid and construction phase,” Trimble said.
These larger projects will include the corridor project on Burnet Road at Braker Lane. Trimble said the city anticipates sending the project out for bid next summer and starting construction in fall 2020 so the intersection is completed by spring 2021 for when the Major League Soccer stadium opens nearby off Burnet.