Yearlong pilot would reduce car lanes and more
By Lina Fisher, 1:30PM, Fri. Jun. 2, 2023
Barton Springs may be peaceful but Barton Springs Road is one of the deadliest roadways in the city.
Since 2018 there has been an average of one crash every week on the stretch between Stratford Drive and South Lamar, and in April 2022, a crash that seriously injured 10 pedestrians spurred the city into action to make the thoroughfare safer.
The city’s first response was to add speed displays and lower the speed limit from 35 to 30 mph on the section of road running between Azie Morton Road to MoPac, but data from this year shows many drivers still go at least 15 mph faster than that. The full crash costs of the road – which the city calculates using quality of life and economic costs – total $19.2 million over the last five years.
To ramp up their efforts, a June 1 memo from Richard Mendoza, interim director of the city’s transportation and public works departments, announced plans for a 12-month pilot of new safety improvements to Barton Springs Road, including a reconfiguration of lanes from Lou Neff Road to South Lamar, enhanced bike lanes, sidewalks connecting pedestrian routes through Zilker Park, and upgraded transit stops. The changes are meant to “calm vehicle speeds and reduce the likelihood of severe crashes.”
The pilot’s enhancements include reducing the road to one lane in each direction between Azie Morton and South Lamar, while adding car lanes at the intersections; widening bike lanes and adding separators; creating better pedestrian crossings over Barton Springs and connecting them through Zilker Park; relocating bus stops to places with crossings; and improving the safety of left turns by maintaining U-turns in the area. The project will be funded using the $460 million 2020 mobility bond.
During the month of June, the Austin Transportation and Public Works Department (TPW) is soliciting public feedback through an online survey and in-person conversations with nearby residents, after which staff will provide an update in July. The Zilker Vision Plan also has a plan for the road – which includes reducing it to one lane in each direction and building a land bridge over it. ATP says they have communicated with the project managers for ZVP and that there are “shared goals between the three initiatives,” but that the Vision Plan is not a document that sets specifics in stone. “Mobility-related aspects in the plan will need further detailed analysis… before implementation occurs, and results of this Safety Pilot Project will help inform future analysis.”
* Editor’s note Friday, June 2, 2:50pm: This story has been updated to correct that it is the Austin Transportation and Public Works Department (TPW), not the Austin Transit Partnership, leading the project. The Chronicle regrets the error.
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