City outlines plans for 3 North Austin roadway projects to increase mobility, pedestrian safety

Parkfield Drive at Norseman Terrace
The city of Austin's Transportation Department is proposing pedestrian and cyclist crossing improvements at 11 intersections along or nearby Parkfield Drive in North Austin. Documents call for a crossing island at the intersection at Parkfield and Norseman Terrace. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

The city of Austin's Transportation Department is proposing pedestrian and cyclist crossing improvements at 11 intersections along or nearby Parkfield Drive in North Austin. Documents call for a crossing island at the intersection at Parkfield and Norseman Terrace. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)

In the months leading up to this spring, staff in the city of Austin’s Corridor Program Office had plans to share schematics and schedules for upcoming transportation projects in North Austin, allowing the public to come and provide comment ahead of any groundbreakings.

However, those plans were forced to change after local and state officials implemented shelter-in-place orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The office’s community open houses, usually held in coffee shops or libraries, are now being hosted online in virtual settings.

Two of those open houses are open to the public on the city’s website now. The city is hosting virtual open houses for its North Lamar Boulevard and Burnet Road corridor programs.

“Once the formal comment periods end, our team will be working to provide responses to each and every comment received,” said Kelly Buethe, the senior public information specialist for the corridor program office, in an email to Community Impact Newspaper.

Meanwhile, the city of Austin’s Transportation Department is similarly hosting a virtual open house for one of its North Austin projects. The city is proposing street and pedestrian crossing improvements to increase safety along Parkfield Drive.

Burnet Road improvements

City staff recently completed an environmental impact analysis for its proposed improvements to Burnet Road, stretching 2.5 miles from the road’s intersections with US 183 to the south and MoPac frontage road to the north.

Through June 5, the city is hosting materials online for the public to review and comment on, including the environmental impact analysis, traffic counts and construction timelines.

As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, the city is looking to install medians and multimodal solutions aimed at improving safety for cyclists, pedestrians and people on scooters along Burnet Road, particularly near the road’s intersection with Braker Lane.

Improvements along Burnet Road funded by Austin’s 2016 Mobility Bond include eight traffic signal upgrades, turn lane modifications at three intersections along Burnet Road, pavement upgrades, the installation of new shared-use paths, drainage improvements and bus stop improvements, according to city documents.

According to data collected by the city of Austin, 918 crashes have occurred on this stretch of Burnet Road over the past five years. Those crashes resulted in four fatalities and 19 serious injuries and involved five bicyclists and 14 pedestrians, city documents show.

Raised medians will be installed at the intersection of Burnet Road and Braker Lane to prevent left turns out of some businesses.

“Left-hand turns are difficult to make on Burnet Road,” city documents read. “Adding medians will help define where left turns should occur, making Burnet Road safer to travel for everyone.”

Mike Trimble, director of the corridor office, in March told Community Impact Newspaper his team is pursuing an “aggressive timeline” for these improvements to get construction wrapped up before Austin FC starts hosting games at the McKalla Place stadium, located at Braker and Burnet, in spring 2021.

City documents now show the city expects to begin construction at the intersection of Braker and Burnet by late 2020. The other improvements funded along Burnet Road from US 183 to MoPac frontage are not scheduled to begin for another two years after that.

North Lamar Boulevard improvements

Over the past two weeks, the city has hosted documents online for residents to review related to the corridor office’s improvements plans along North Lamar Boulevard. The scope of these improvements, funded by the city’s 2016 Mobility Bond, run from US 183 to the south and Howard Lane to the north.

Many of the individual projects located along this corridor are aimed at improving multimodal safety for pedestrians and cyclists attempting to cross North Lamar. Several pedestrian safety improvement projects are currently scheduled to begin in early June on the stretch of North Lamar from Payton Gin Road to US 183.

“We are taking a ‘multi-modal’ approach to our roadway projects, and we are working to provide infrastructure that is mutually beneficial to drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit-users,” Buethe said in an email.

The funded improvements set to break ground over the next handful of years along this stretch of corridor include 12 traffic signal improvements with new technology, three new traffic signals, three pedestrian crossing signals, drainage work, bus stop improvements and the construction of 12 miles of shared-use paths for pedestrians, bicyclists and scooters.

The city will also construct raised medians at intervals on North Lamar between Rundberg Lane and Braker Lane.

These improvements come as this stretch of North Lamar has been particularly dangerous for pedestrians along the roadway.

According to data collected by the city of Austin, 59 pedestrians were involved in crashes along this stretch of North Lamar between 2015 and February 2020.

There are no bicycle lanes along this corridor, city documents state.

City data shows 3,963 crashes have occurred on North Lamar between US 183 and Howard Lane during that same time window. Those crashes resulted in nine fatalities.

If the corridor office’s plans for the North Lamar corridor receive environmental clearance by August, improvements from Parmer Lane to Howard Lane are expected to break ground by winter 2021.

That would be the first of several projects to begin work along the corridor. Funded improvements from US 183 to Rundberg lane would immediately follow in fall 2021, with scheduled construction in 2022 and 2023 for improvements from Rundberg Lane to Parmer Lane and a pedestrian bridge at North Lamar and US 183.

Parkfield Drive safety upgrades

The Austin Transportation Department is proposing a series of pedestrian crossing and bicycle lane improvements along Parkfield Drive and nearby streets.

According to city documents, the city is looking to add about 1 mile of protected bicycle lanes along Parkfield Drive from Mearns Meadow Boulevard to the north and Payton Gin Road to the south, funded by Austin’s 2016 Mobility Bond.

The city will also remove on-street parking along the west side of Parkfield Drive in two separate stretches of roadway between Mearns Meadow Boulevard and Rutland Drive and between Quail Park Drive and Payton Gin Road near Wooldridge Elementary School.

The Parkfield Drive project further includes removing a lane in each direction from Quail Court and Quail Park Drive, resulting in one northbound lane and one southbound lane along that stretch of roadway. The center turn lane will remain in place, according to city documents.

City staffers additionally identified 11 crossings on Parkfield Drive and on surrounding streets to add pedestrian crossings, crossing islands or curb extensions.

Most of these pedestrian crossing improvements are located at intersections surrounding Wooldridge Elementary. One of the two intersections not located within two blocks of the elementary school is across from Juan Navarro High School at the intersection of Payton Gin Road and Collinfield Drive.

The window to provide public feedback on the Parkfield Drive project ends June 14, according to city documents. Plans available on the city of Austin’s website show the city does not have any established timelines for this project yet.

By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


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