Sharing a Vision for East Austin

The Reconnect Austin team had a very productive meeting with the Blackland Neighborhood Association and UT representatives on Wednesday evening, where we had an opportunity to discuss our ideas for mutually-beneficial development in the East Austin community.  Below are the diagrams that were shared.

Here’s an aerial view of the area as it currently exists:

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Here’s the same view with the addition of tennis courts and UT graduate student town homes (housing-wrapped blocks with parking and gardens on the interior) east of I-35:

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Finally, here’s the vision for the Blackland Neighborhood and UT with a cap over I-35 and the re-routing of Red River, which opens up land for the development of much-needed parking directly next to the football stadium, a basketball arena, and well-connected surface boulevards that help to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment:

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A Vision for a Reconnected Austin

Imagine turning Austin’s greatest barrier—I-35—into Austin’s greatest connector. Great Streets connecting across the freeway, on bridges so wide you hardly notice the traffic underneath. Frontage roads that function as city streets, comfortable for bicyclists and pedestrians. A reconstituted grid that breaks through downtown’s ring of congestion, providing transit facilities and options for all needs.

We present: Great Streets. Great Bridges. Great Connections.

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(Click to enlarge) Phase 1: Great connections and humane streets for all users.

When the main lanes are depressed, structures will be put in place to support a future cap over the freeway. As a City initiative, Phase 2 will entail a full cap, with even better connections and amenities.

Austin I-35 Super Street Concept Dropped

Yesterday TxDOT announced that it has dropped the Austin I-35 Super Street Concept and will now be offering alternatives.

Thank you Austin!

Now we await the revised concepts, and we’ll keep you posted as they develop.

If you haven’t already done so, please be sure to fill out the somewhat flawed (more on that soon) Mobility35 Travis County Neighborhood Survey.

Here is the full text of TxDOT’s announcement:

Austin I-35 Super Street Concept Dropped

I-35 through the heart of Austin is the most congested highway in Texas, and through downtown it has a much higher crash rate than the statewide average for urban interstates. To address these problems, the Texas Department of Transportation and the city of Austin have been working with stakeholders for more than two years to identify and evaluate strategies for improving I-35. These efforts led to the development of the Mobility 35 Plan for Travis County (also known as the I-35 Capital Area Improvement Program Corridor Implementation Plan) which was released in August 2013. The Mobility 35 Plan identifies a recommended program of projects and strategies aimed at enhancing mobility along and across I-35.

Texas Super Streets were among the strategies recommended in the plan. As a result of ongoing dialogue and feedback from stakeholders, Texas Super Streets are no longer proposed for I-35 in Austin. Instead, TxDOT has identified other strategies for enhancing frontage road mobility and safety while reducing driver inconvenience. These strategies represent a menu of frontage road modification options that can be tailored to site-specific intersection conditions.

Although the frontage road modification options are still being refined and evaluated, and each intersection will be considered on a case-by-case basis, it is anticipated that direct east/west movements could be accommodated at most of the current crossing locations.

Similarly, with the current exception of 6th Street, bicyclists and pedestrians would continue to have east/west access at all points where current crossings exist. TxDOT continues to work with stakeholders at 6th Street to examine alternatives that would keep this movement available. Police vehicles, fire trucks and ambulances would be able to cross I-35 at any crossing location when responding to emergencies.

The key to improving I-35 frontage road operations is to identify the best individual solution at each crossing, then ensure the crossings work together as a safe and efficient system. TxDOT and the city of Austin remain committed to that goal.

A Travis County neighborhood survey has been posted. So far, we’ve heard from more than 920 people and we want to hear from you! Information learned from the survey will be considered by the project team as the frontage road modification options are further refined and evaluated.

(Editor’s Note: Super Streets, as originally proposed in the plan, eliminate left-turn movements from the cross streets and eliminate east/west traffic flow across the frontage roads. Instead of traditional left and straight movements, drivers first turn right onto the frontage road and then u-turn before continuing to their destination. The resulting traffic pattern serves to improve overall traffic flow through the intersections and decreases the need to stop frontage road traffic at signals. While Super Streets can be an effective tool to improve the flow of traffic through intersections, the project team has determined they will not move forward with this option.)

Creating a Vision & Fighting Back

CNU’s March Highways to Boulevards Webinar
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26th @ 2:00PM CST
(If you are interested in participating, send an email to communications@cnu.org with the subject “March Highways to Boulevards Webinar.”)

It takes time to change perceptions on traffic, vehicle movement, and public infrastructure. And more often than not, it takes a vision.

Two enterprising campaigns currently taking place in car-centric Texas have honed their message with strong arguments for greater street and neighborhood connectivity, aided with sleek visuals and precise numbers. These campaigns offer alternatives to the current thinking of TxDOT. Lessons from these campaigns can be applied to other grassroots efforts nationally and elevate the conversation on how transportation infrastructure should look and function in an urban context. Understand these groups’ motivations from the leaders themselves and learn their strategies in Highways to Boulevards: Creating a Vision & Fighting Back.

Join two distinguished urbanists with experience crafting and articulating a vision for more connected, multimodal street design in a discussion on the importance of creating and selling a vision when fighting for urban highway removal. 2008 Athena Award winner Sinclair Black is the Firm Principal of Black + Vernooy in Austin, TX. A “tireless advocate for urbanism,” Sinclair and his firm are actively advocating for a “cut and cap” alternative to I-35 in Austin. Patrick Kennedy is a partner at Space Between Design Studio, LLC in Dallas, TX; author of the popular urbanism blog: Walkable DFW-Restoring a City to Walkability; and leading the charge to remove I-345 in downtown Dallas. In this webinar, Sinclair and Patrick share their strategies with attendees and stick around for Q&A.

Attendance is limited to the first 100 people to sign up, so email us now to hold your spot. This is the sixth webinar in a 10-part series from CNU on building effective highway removal campaigns. You can expect a new webinar in our series each month.

Make Your Light Rail Look Like LA’s

There are several ways in which LA’s network design is superior; in order from broad planning down to engineering details, they are: service area, overall route configuration, station spacing, grade separation, and route geometry.

Let's Go LA

Regular readers know that this blog doesn’t have a devotion to any particular transportation technology. I’m all about efficiency. The best options are the ones that move the most people and goods as fast as possible. Now you can drift off into daydreams about “slow transit” but fact is, people usually want to get where they’re going quickly and reliably. People vote with their feet and if you want their feet on your transit vehicle instead of on the gas pedal, your transit better be competitive. People don’t want slow transit any more than they want slow freeways.

So, if you’re investing money in a light rail network, you ought to make it look like ours in Los Angeles. Chances are your city doesn’t have the density of Manhattan or narrow streets of downtown Boston that make subways the only practical option. If you look at LA’s light…

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Project Connect: Upcoming Open Houses

Please participate in the upcoming open houses for Project Connect, the vision for Central Texas’ high-capacity transit system. Linking activity centers within the fastest growing region in the country, Project Connect (a partnership between Capital Metro and the city of Austin) aims to connect people, places and opportunities in an easy, efficient way.

1) Thursday, September 26, 2013 – 5:00pm to 8:00pm  Public Open House  Givens Recreation Center  3811 E. 12th St.

2) Friday, September 27, 2013 – 12:00pm to 1:00pm  Online Open House  Webinar (projectconnect.com)  Register at http://projectconnect.com

3) Wednesday, October 2, 2013 – 5:00pm to 8:00pm  Public Open House  Norris Conference Center  2525 W Anderson Lane (Red Oak Ballroom)

Project Connect leaders hope to have a decision on which areas of the central corridor urban rail will travel through by the end of the year and then next year decide on the routes.

A bond election would have to fund urban rail.

If all goes as planned urban rail would become a reality in 2020.