Austin might be the Texas State Capitol and home to some of the state’s most noticeable attractions, including Barton Springs Pool and Lady Bird Lake, but it also happens to be a very congested area. In fact, according to recent traffic reports, Texas picks up the number 10 spot for worst traffic in the U.S. The city has seen tremendous growth in a variety of areas, but its traffic problems continue to get worse. Some commentators attribute this to the lack of infrastructure in the city, as it was never really meant to grow so much.
Traffic woes in Austin are nothing new to residents. Rush-hour congestion has become a standard way of living and thanks to improvements in the local economy, new growth has led to more cars being on the streets, which, of course, only increases the number of accidents. And while one may think that developing roadways should help decrease the number of traffic accidents, the reality for those of us who live here seems to be that, because development necessarily requires re-directing traffic and parking heavy machinery around the construction site, sometimes growth actually worsens traffic problems. Has Austin seen an increase in traffic incidents due to development? That remains to be seen. For now, let’s take a close look at two ways Austin is addressing transportation issues in the city.
Mopac Improvement Job
Austin hoped to decrease the number of traffic incidents and congested traffic through the Mopac Improvement Job, completed much later than originally planned for. This project added an express lane, which is a lane that is used by a number of vehicles traveling at faster speeds than other vehicles on that road. The express lane added during the Mopac Improvement Job uses tolling, which is a newer technology designed to that helps drivers get to where they need to be without being late. Through the use of sensors, traffic is monitored and the toll is adjusted accordingly. For example, when traffic is heavy, the toll is increased. However, when traffic is light, the opposite takes place to encourage more use of the toll. Unfortunately, though, traffic incidents on Mopac are still a somewhat common occurrence despite the improvement job being completed.
Additionally, the job brought additional traffic concerns that the city had to address once the express lanes opened: traffic became jammed on Cesar Chavez and surrounding roads in downtown Austin.
$7.5 Million Improvement Plan
The Austin Transportation Department, which recently revealed its plans to improve the roadway from Anderson Mill Road all the way up to US 183. Not only will the improvements include an extension to the right-turning lane found at Anderson Mill Road and US 183, but it will also provide new center left-turn lanes as well as paths along the roadways that can be used for biking and walking. The results will have a major impact on traffic congestion on these roadways. And the shared-use paths for walking and biking will increase safety as well as help the city stay in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and will also provide residents with easier access to bus stops.
As of now, the plan is in the design and permitting phases, which will likely last through 2020. Construction of the project is predicted to begin sometime in late 2020 or early 2021. Unfortunately, while the project is in permitting and construction phases, this will actually increase traffic and accidents due to higher levels of congestion. A full list of the proposed roadway improvements can be found below:
- “Maintaining two travel lanes in each direction
- Addition of new center left-turn lanes/bays
- Raised median near Anderson Mill and US 183
- Extension of right-turn lane on Anderson Mill Road eastbound approaching US 183
- Continuous shared-use paths on both sides of the road for biking and walking
- Underground infrastructure for possible future traffic signals
- Water quality elements—possibly a detention pond or increased drainage, with plans to be determined”
It remains to be seen whether the city’s population growth and its incidental development will lead to a higher number of traffic incidents.
Whether you’re a resident of Austin or just passing through, make sure you allow enough time to accommodate for heavy traffic jams and possible accidents ahead. If you are injured in an accident in Austin, do not hesitate to call Pastrana Law Firm at 512-474-4487.