TxDOT seeks resident input for improving Loop 360

The Texas Department of Transportation is working on a study on how to improve congestion on Loop 360. The agency needs input from residents to help rank solutions and priorities.

The Texas Department of Transportation is working on a study on how to improve congestion on Loop 360. The agency needs input from residents to help rank solutions and priorities.

To help rank priorities and proposed solutions to aid congestion on Loop 360, the Texas Department of Transportation is turning to area residents who use the roadway.

An online survey asking residents to rank problems and proposed solutions to improve Loop 360 will close Oct. 16.

The survey is vital for TxDOT to determine which solutions residents would like to see and what other suggestions they have, said Bruce Byron, public engagement officer for TxDOT’s Austin District. TxDOT began the Loop 360 feasibility study in late 2014.

Bryon said he has a half-inch stack of comments submitted by residents so far. He said he reads each one of them and incorporates the input into proposed solutions. One resident's recommendation—using the road's shoulders as extra lanes—will be used in modeling different solutions, he said. Modeling will show how a proposed solution will affect congestion, he said.

“Those [comments] are really helpful to provide details of what’s going on [Loop 360],” he said. “We don’t live there 24/7 with what’s out there. Residents can help find nuances of where operations and intersections fail.”

Byron said the survey results since its March launch show a shift in perspective for people who use Loop 360.

“What it demonstrates is the attitudes on  Loop 360 have shifted significantly in [the] last three years as congestion has gone from a major annoyance to a severe impact on the quality of life,” he said. “Things that used to seem important to people are less important to mobility and safety out there.”

Previously residents indicated maintaining the character and appearance of the roadway as more important, he said. However, of the 3,337 survey responses collected by Sept. 8, 69 percent ranked "providing faster, more reliable travel times" as their top priority versus 12 percent who ranked "maintaining the existing visual character" as No. 1, according to survey results.

The survey also asked residents to rank proposed solutions to congestion. Fifty-three percent of respondents ranked "eliminate traffic signals and build over/underpasses at intersections" as the No. 1 solution. The solution with the second-most votes—at 18 percent—was "intersection improvements that improve access to/from cross streets" followed by "add more lanes" at 13 percent.

“The response thus far has been very encouraging that people are anxious for significant solutions to congestion with the need to do it as sensitively as possible, both aesthetically and environmentally,” Byron said.

Once the survey closes, Byron said the district will meet with stakeholders and neighborhood groups throughout the corridor to show them the results. In November and December, TxDOT staff will create a draft report to release in early 2016 for more public feedback.

The draft report will also be published online and show a list of proposed short-term projects, or what Byron calls "bandaid approaches," as well as longer-term solutions that TxDOT would take through schematic design.
By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels. She enjoys spending time with her husband, son and two cats.