Panelists talk transportation at Real Estate Council of Austin forum

From left: At the Real Estate Council of Austin's Ideas Forum Luncheon on Oct. 11, Shannon Wolfson with KXAN News moderates a forum featuring panelists including Bruce Byron with the Texas Department of Transportation;nWill Conley, chairman of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board;nJohn Michael Cortez with the city of Austin; nMike Heiligenstein with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority; and Beverly Silas with Capital Metro.

From left: At the Real Estate Council of Austin's Ideas Forum Luncheon on Oct. 11, Shannon Wolfson with KXAN News moderates a forum featuring panelists including Bruce Byron with the Texas Department of Transportation;nWill Conley, chairman of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board;nJohn Michael Cortez with the city of Austin; nMike Heiligenstein with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority; and Beverly Silas with Capital Metro.

Collaboration is key in initiatives to relieve congestion in Central Texas, including MoPac express lanes, Mobility35 and the November city of Austin transportation bond, panelists said at the Real Estate Council of Austin's Ideas Forum Luncheon on Oct. 11 at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin.

Here are some of the points panelists made at the forum.

Local agencies should work together


Panelists discussed the importance of proper land use when planning for roadways and other projects. Addressing regional congestion problems requires adding capacity in every sector of the region—not just Austin, said Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority.

“We have got to invest in key arteries,” he said.

Will Conley, chairman of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board, said the state of Texas has made it clear it wants to partner with local regional authorities to develop and deliver transportation projects.

“We need to continue to collaborate. There is not one project done in this state anymore of any significance that doesn’t have multiple partners and multiple agencies as part of that program,” he said, citing examples such as proposed toll road SH 45 SW in Travis and Hays counties as well as projects along I-35, which involve collaboration among the state and agencies including CAMPO; the Mobility Authority; the Texas Department of Transportation; and cities in Williamson, Travis and Hays counties.

Multimodal plans

Moderator Shannon Wolfson with KXAN News asked panelists how the region can work to get people to use other modes of transportation besides driving.

“Express lanes are going to matter,” Heiligenstein said, noting establishing a faster route for Capital Metro express bus lanes could help relieve potential riders’ fears of getting on a bus and then being stuck in traffic.

Capital Metro board member Beverly Silas said the area needs myriad options, including transportation network companies, bikes and transit as options.

Mobility bond

Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election, which includes the city’s $720 million mobility bond proposition. The bond contains various projects to improve mobility throughout the city, including regional roadwork, studies on major corridors, sidewalk construction and bus pullout lanes.

John Michael Cortez, special assistant to the city of Austin Mayor said the cost to alleviate all transportation needs in the area would be somewhere around $9.5 billion.

Cortez said transit is used in Central Austin but not much elsewhere, and projects in the mobility bond that would establish sidewalks and opportunities to connect with existing transit hubs are one step toward less traffic.

RECA is supporting the city’s mobility bond proposition.

Mike Heilegenstein, executive director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, speaks at the Real Estate Council of Austin's Ideas Forum Luncheon on Oct. 11 at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin. Mike Heiligenstein, executive director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, speaks at the Real Estate Council of Austin's Ideas Forum Luncheon on Oct. 11 at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin.[/caption]

Moving forward

Traffic control lights can add to congestion, Heilegenstein said, noting that the revamped tolled expressway 183 South that will start opening in 2019 will have 12 lanes—six nonstop 80 mph lanes and six similar to what exists today.

“You’ll be able to go from Liberty Hill to the airport without stopping at 80 miles per hour,” he said.

Bruce Byron, a project manager with TxDOT, said adding toll lanes to roads such as Loop 360 is a way to maximize the minimum of two lanes that can be added.

“Nobody likes tolling. ... But the reality is, that’s the only way we’re going to get effective control over those lanes,” he said.

Conley noted many of the regional transportation authorities agree on how to move forward into the next 10 years, despite panelists voicing a few different ideas and opinions about how to move forward from a longer-term perspective.

“Let’s talk about our future, but at the same time let’s also develop these projects that we’re all in agreement on,” Conley said.
SHARE THIS STORY
By Kelli Weldon

Kelli joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter and has been covering Southwest Austin news since July 2012. She was promoted to editor of the Southwest Austin edition in April 2015. In addition to covering local businesses, neighborhood development, events, transportation and education, she is also the beat reporter covering the Travis County Commissioners Court.


MOST RECENT

A photo of latte art.
Summer Moon Coffee to open at Circle C Ranch

A new coffee shop is set to open in a previous South Austin location of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Austin City Council is considering an end to enforcement of low level marijuana possession laws. (SHELBY SAVAGE/COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER)
Support grows among Austin City Council members who want to end local penalties for low-level marijuana possession

If successful, the Austin Police Department would no longer hand out arrests or citations for possession of marijuana with no intent to distribute.

Delays have pushed back completion of the much-anticipated Bee Creek Sports Complex to spring 2022. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Utility and other hurdles delay Bee Creek Sports Complex

Though it was initially planned to be ready for play by 2020, delays pertaining to construction and, more specifically, to water service, have pushed the completion date of the much-anticipated Bee Creek Sports Complex to spring 2022.

zanjero park water
Travis County commissioners pursue easement to bring water to Las Lomitas subdivision

Travis County commissioners are working to address colonias—unincorporated areas in the county that lack basic utilities.

Austin Public Health is investigating a confirmed rubella case, the first case of the contagious viral infection in Travis County since 1999. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Austin Public Health confirms city’s first rubella case since 1999

Austin Public Health is investigating a confirmed rubella case, the first case of the contagious viral infection in Travis County since 1999.

Travis County commissioners will receive preliminary estimates for a new peace officer step pay scale at their Jan. 28 meeting. (Courtesy Travis County Sheriff's Office)
Travis County commissioners consider revisions to peace office pay

Travis County commissioners are considering options that will revise the pay scale for peace officers, including law enforcement, corrections and park rangers.

A photo of the exterior of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Austin.
Baylor Scott & White's Austin Medical Center opens in Oak Hill

Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Austin opened its doors Jan. 15.

Texas oil and gas industry could see a major slowdown in 2020

The oil and natural gas industry paid a record-setting $16.3 billion in taxes and royalties to local governments and the state in 2019, the Texas Oil and Gas Association announced Tuesday.

A photo of a sign that reads "Visit Historic Dripping Springs."
Dripping Springs City Council tangles with parking solutions for historic downtown

Council members stressed the need for long-term downtown parking solutions at their Jan. 14 meeting.

Commuters arrive at downtown Austin's lone light rail stop. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
With unveiling of 'transformational' transit proposal, support for urban rail grows among Austin leaders

Before voting on a multibillion-dollar bond referendum coming in November, the community will have to choose between an urban rail or bus transit system.

A photo of the facade of Hill Country Healing Haven.
New acupuncture clinic Hill Country Healing Haven open in Dripping Springs

A new center for acupuncture and wellness now operates in Dripping Springs.

Options in the Project Connect plan include adding light rail as well as expanding MetroRail, the commuter rail line in the region. (Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)
Voters could decide in November how to fund an estimated $2.9B-$7.2B needed to expand transit in Austin area

Capital Metro, city of Austin officials are discussing financing options for expanding transit through Project Connect.

Back to top