Transportation updates to know in Central Austin

An electric scooter rider travels down Cesar Chavez Street.

An electric scooter rider travels down Cesar Chavez Street.

New bike lanes are opening along Shoal Creek Boulevard, speed limits have changed on some major Central Austin roads, the 183 South project is advancing and scooter companies are using a technology called "geofencing" to limit use of the vehicles in restricted areas.

1.Shoal Creek Boulevard bike lanes

The city of Austin completed new one-way protected bike lanes on both sides of Shoal Creek Boulevard between Hwy. 183 and Foster Lane in September and is building a two-way protected bike lane on Shoal Creek between Foster and 38th Street. Installation of the two-way protected bikeway between Foster and 38th will happen in segments, as intersection improvements are completed at Shoal Creek’s intersection with Foster, Hancock Drive and 45th and 38th streets. Construction of improvements in this southern section began at the intersection of Foster and Shoal Creek, which will be the transition point between the one-way and two-way bike lanes, in early September.
Timeline: July-early 2020 (first phase)
Cost: $3 million-$4 million
Funding sources: 2016 city of Austin mobility bond

2.Speed limit changes on major streets

Austin City Council voted Sept. 19 to change speed limits on eight different stretches of road, including three areas in Central Austin. The speed limit on A. Airport Boulevard between I-35 and Glissman Road was lowered to 40 mph from 45 or 50 mph. On B. South Lamar Boulevard between Barton Skyway and Ben White Boulevard, the speed limit was lowered from 45 mph to 40 mph, and on C. Pleasant Valley Road between Webberville Road and East Riverside Drive, the speed limit was lowered to 35 mph, changed from 35, 40 or 50 mph. The changes are part of an effort from the Austin Transportation Department to evaluate traffic speed and safety across the city. In a Sept. 19 memo to City Council, Austin Transportation Department Robert Spillar said the speed-management program is ongoing and that staff expect to have another list of potential streets for which to change speed limits in January.
Timeline: implemented in October
Cost: funding included in fiscal year 2018-19 budget, the Austin Transportation Department was unable to give an exact funding amount
Funding source: Austin Transportation Department

3.183 South project

After finishing improvements, including a tolled expressway, on the north section of this project between US 290 and Techni Center Drive in August, work continues on the southern side of the project, with full opening expected late in 2020. Reconstruction of the Colorado River bridge is ongoing, and a detour is in place for northbound drivers to access Airport Boulevard, Seventh Street, Fifth Street and Cesar Chavez Street. Later this year, there will be a lane shift between FM 969 and Boggy Creek to allow crews to build the new expressway in that area.
Timeline: 2016-2020
Cost: $743 million
Funding sources: Mobility Authority toll revenue bonds, federal loans, Texas Department of Transportation loans

4. Geofencing technology introduced for dockless bicycles and scooters

Starting in September, Austin electric scooter and bicycle users riding on unpaved park trails, where, per city rules, dockless vehicles are not allowed, may have noticed their vehicles slowing down. This speed-override technology, known as “geofencing,” is designed to discourage illegal scooter use on parkland, according to the Austin Transportation Department, which said the change came in response to concerns about illegal use of the devices in areas they are prohibited. Geofencing has been in place at The University of Texas since March. Users riding Bird, Jump, Lime and Lyft scooters around certain parts of UT campus are limited to a maximum speed of 8 mph, according to UT.A pilot program that began in January allows dockless vehicles on some city parkland. Parks and recreation staff say they are compiling data and are scheduled to deliver findings from the program to the city’s urban transportation committee on Nov. 12.

By Jack Flagler

Jack is the editor for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. He graduated in 2011 from Boston University and worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in Maine, Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in January of 2018.


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