Mobility bond construction, planning in South Austin to advance in 2019

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Three years ago Austin residents passed the $720 million 2016 Mobility Bond, and motorists are beginning to see progress on South Austin roadways. A number of local projects broke ground in 2018, and more projects are coming over the next five years.

Corridor Program Office Director Mike Trimble said he is pleased with the bond’s progress so far. Austin is on track with the bond’s eight-year timeline, with projects in various phases of planning, designing and construction. 

Nine corridors throughout the city, including Slaughter Lane and William Cannon Drive, are receiving the bulk of the bond funds—about $482 million.

“The end goal is to improve mobility,” Trimble said. “Whether you walk, bike, use transit or drive—we want to make sure you’re able to use the corridors and move around the corridors a little more safely and efficiently.”

About $137 million of the bond is going toward other local projects. These will improve intersections; transit and school access; and
create sidewalks, bikeways and trails. The remaining $101 million will go to regional projects, one of which—the reconstruction of the Old Bee Caves Road bridge over Williamson Creek—is planned for South Austin.

BOND PROGRESS

To date, the city has completed about 50 new sidewalk projects, 20 bikeways and four intersection safety projects. Another 80 sidewalk projects will be completed in fiscal year 2018-19.

The city is ahead on its sidewalk program, according to Diane Rice, sidewalk division program manager for the public works department.

Completed projects also include 17 Safe Routes to School projects, said Amir Emamian, Safe Routes to School program manager for public works.

Phase 2 of the Safe Routes to School program involves completing walk audits in each council district to identify a list of future improvements. He said construction on Phase 2 projects likely will start this spring.

CORRIDOR PROGRAM TIMELINE

Slaughter Lane and William Cannon Drive corridor mobility plans were funded for construction in 2016 and are currently in the preliminary design phase, corridor program spokesperson Kelly Buethe said. Community feedback was gathered in 2017 and 2018 to refine the plans for implementation, with construction expected from 2021-24.

“Public feedback about both corridors have very similar themes—concerns for congestion and for pedestrian and bicycle safety,” she said. “Our improvement plans really hit home with people.”

Both plans will create continuous pedestrian and bike facilities to make residents feel safe when traveling to bus stops or local destinations. Projects to improve busy intersections are also included to help traffic flow and prepare for future population growth.

Buethe said the corridor office will present an updated plan to Austin City Council this spring. Once approved, the office will begin the final design phase. Future engagement opportunities are being planned for 2019.

Corridor mobility plans are also being created for Manchaca Road, South Pleasant Valley Road and South Congress Avenue. The creation of plans was funded through the 2016 bond; however, construction will be funded through future means.

Buethe said Manchaca and Pleasant Valley plans will go through an internal review this spring. The South Congress corridor mobility plan is taking longer to develop, Buethe said.

FUTURE IMPACTS

Buethe said the corridor team will look for “first-out” opportunities, low-disturbance projects that can be constructed prior to 2021.

As construction of local projects continues, residents and businesses will be impacted. Trimble said the city aims to be upfront with business owners about what disruptions might occur.

“We’re anticipating a lot of the construction to occur in a very small window,” he said. “We’re going to have to do a very good job sequencing [corridor]work, trying to get in and out as quickly as possible to get that work completed.”

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Nicholas Cicale
Nick was born in Long Island, New York and grew up in South Florida. He graduated from Florida State University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in writing and a minor in music. Nick was a journalist for three years at the St. James Plaindealer in Minnesota before moving to Austin to join Community Impact Newspaper in 2016.
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