Water conservation is focus of editorial, environmental directory

On Tuesday the Austin American-Statesman featured a guest editorial on water conservation by environmental writer and former Burleson Heights homeowner Paul Robbins, who also writes about water issues in the 2013 Austin Environmental Directory.

An environmental activist and consumer advocate since 1977, Robbins began editing the Austin Environmental Directory in 1995. In 2007, the City of Austin renamed the energy-efficient facility that cools City Hall and about a dozen other large downtown buildings the Paul Robbins Downtown District Cooling Plant in his honor.

It’s been four years since Robbins left our neighborhood for a home adjacent to a southwest Austin greenbelt, which offered the quiet lifestyle the writer and editor craved. But one thing he didn’t count on was the 2011 Oak Hill Fire. He leads off the 2013 directory with a gripping account of the blaze, which was fueled by Texas’ grueling drought and destroyed four homes on his block, including his next-door neighbor’s house. Conditions that likely contributed to the fire — including dead limbs that littered the greenbelt and illicit cooking fires — are eerily similar to those near his old neighborhood, which is surrounded by wooded property.

In addition to covering water issues, the 2013 Austin Environmental Directory, Robbins’ eighth, includes sections on clean energy, green building, recycling, local food and the region’s environmental groups. It’s available online and in print at retailers around Austin. You can read his editorial, Dry lakes demand conservation, on the Statesman’s website.

Water conservation at home

Southeastern Travis County is on the line between severe drought and extreme drought, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor. We've been running a rain deficit for at least three years.

Texas has been running a rain deficit for at least three years, and Southeastern Travis County is currently on the line between severe drought and extreme drought. Click to enlarge. (U.S. Drought Monitor)

Water flowing into the Highland Lakes has slowed to a trickle since the drought began in 2010, and Lakes Buchanan and Travis, which supply Austin’s water, are now only 32 percent full. Conserving water on the home front should be part of the strategy for ensuring that we have enough to last through a dry spell with no end in sight.

Repairing water leaks and replacing old appliances and plumbing fixtures with more efficient models such as front-loading washing machines and WaterSense toilets and showerheads can significantly reduce water usage. 

One of the biggest water wasters at homes is our lawns, which consume about 31 percent of Austin’s residential water, according to the Texas Water Development Board publication The Grass is Always Greener: Outdoor Residential Water Use in Texas. Ways to conserve water outdoors include replacing some of the turf in your landscape with drought-tolerant plants, covering the soil with mulch, collecting and irrigating with rainwater, and applying only as much water as necessary to keep valuable trees healthy, or about 1 inch per week. Use rain gauges to monitor how much rain has fallen and how much you water, and apply only enough water to make up the difference. See Robbins’ Austin Environmental Directory for even more conservation information and tips.

Follow The Hurly-Burly on Twitter @HurlyBurlyATX for rainfall amounts in Burleson Heights and other neighborhood topics, or check the bottom of the right rail on this page for the five latest tweets.

Learn more about water issues in our neighborhood, city and state by using the links along the right side of this blog, which include:

  • Water levels in Lakes Buchanan and Travis
  • Rebates and conservation tips
  • Austin’s watering schedule
  • Water-thrifty landscaping
  • Water quality in Country Club Creek and other Austin watersheds
  • Recent rainfall amounts
  • The U.S. Drought Monitor
Posted in Conservation, Garden & landscape, Media, Water quality | Leave a comment

Restriping to begin soon on Burleson Road

A portion of Burleson Road will have parallel parking along the west side as part of a resurfacing and restriping project that began this week. (City of Austin Bicycle Program)

Parallel parking will soon be allowed on part of Burleson Road for the first time in decades, part of a mobility project that also includes safer bike lanes. (Drawings from City of Austin Bicycle Program)

Burleson Road is getting a facelift this week, starting with a resurfacing project that began on Monday.

The City of Austin Public Works Department began laying down a new topping of tar and gravel on the portions of Burleson closest to Oltorf Street and Ben White Boulevard. Once the entire surface is complete, it will be swept to remove loose material.

About two weeks later, the street will be restriped from Oltorf to Ben White to improve the safety of bike lanes and enable parallel parking for a four-block residential section of the road.

blah blah. Click to enlarge.

Buffered bike lanes include a striped section between drivers and cyclists for added safety. Click to enlarge.

Most of the 1.1-mile section of road will be restriped with “buffered bike lanes,” 8-foot-wide lanes that have a 2-foot-wide striped buffer between car and bicycle traffic. The configuration will narrow the extremely wide vehicle lanes on Burleson down to standard widths for safer speeds, and will also help drivers comply with the city’s Vulnerable Road Users – Safe Passing law. The 2009 law requires a safe passing distance between vehicles and vulnerable road users such as bicycle riders, runners, people with disabilities, maintenance workers or stranded motorists. Safe is defined as 3 feet for cars and light trucks, 6 feet for trucks and commercial vehicles.

Blah blah. Click to enlarge.

In addition to wider bike lanes, a four-block section of Burleson Road will also have a lane for parallel parking on the west side. Click to enlarge.

Restriping will also create a lane for parallel parking on the west side of Burleson between Douglas Street and Santa Monica Drive. In that section of the road, where there will not be space for the 2-foot-wide striped buffer, the project will create two 11-foot-wide vehicle lanes, one 8-foot-wide parking lane, and two bike lanes of 6 to 8 feet wide.

Parking will still be illegal on the east side of Burleson inside the four-block parking zone, and on either side of the street outside of the four-block zone.

To learn more about the restriping project, contact Neil Kopper, an engineering associate with the city’s Neighborhood Connectivity Division, at Neil.Kopper@AustinTexas.gov or (512) 974-7166.

Bike route to Formula One

Burleson Road is a designated bike route on the City of Austin’s bike map, and will once again be part of the official bicycle route to the F1 races Nov. 15-17 when the U.S. Grand Prix returns to the Circuit of the Americas. See photos of some of the estimated 1,100 cyclists who passed through last year.

If you are interested in volunteering during F1 this year to help create a safer crossing at Burleson Road and make the neighborhood pocket park a more pleasant stopping point for Austin visitors, please use the Hurly-Burly Contact page.

Posted in City projects, Cycling, Safety, Transportation | Leave a comment

Better mobility coming to Todd Lane, Burleson Road

Clay Harris and Neil Kopper of the City of Austin Public Works Department talked with Burleson-area residents on Aug. 14 about upcoming projects to improve mobility for cars, bicycles and pedestrians on Todd Lane and Burleson Road.

Todd Lane improvements

Harris, the project manager for the Todd Lane project, said the city is taking a multi-modal approach to transportation on the road, which will soon be rebuilt to better serve many kinds of users — and more of them. Currently about 3,000-4,000 vehicles a day pass through the intersection of Todd Lane/St. Elmo/Pleasant Valley Road, he said, but that number is expected to reach 15,000-20,000 vehicles a day by 2035. The project is designed to conform with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) 2035 Regional Transportation Plan.

An 18-month construction project will widen Todd Lane and add a center turn lane, bike lanes, sidewalks and a roundabout. Work will also improve water and sewer lines and drainage.

An 18-month construction project will widen Todd Lane (red) and add bike lanes, sidewalks and a roundabout. A newly built road (gold) has created a continuous artery through Southeast Austin via South Pleasant Valley Road, Todd Lane and Burleson Road. Click to enlarge. (Google Maps)

“About 60,000 people are moving to Central Texas every year,” Harris said. “We’re doing our best to handle that flow, and look at it not just for vehicles, but also for pedestrians and bicycles.”

Once complete, Todd Lane will have three vehicle lanes, including a center turn lane, plus 8-foot-wide bicycle lanes and 10-foot-wide sidewalks on each side. The number of bus stops will increase from two to four, with crosswalks and overhead lights known as hybrid beacons that will alert drivers by flashing when a pedestrian needs to cross the street. There also will be four crosswalks at a roundabout at St. Elmo Road, which will be built during the last phase of the project. Speed limits will be 25 mph in the roundabout, 35 mph on Todd Lane, and 45 mph on St. Elmo Road.

A new section of South Pleasant Valley Road recently opened on the south side of the intersection, greatly improving connectivity in Southeast Austin, but one result will be more cars on Todd Lane and Burleson Road past our neighborhoods.

“It will increase traffic flow. That’s the bottom line,” Harris told residents. “There aren’t many north-south corridors in this area.”

The city has chosen Chasco Constructors as the contractor for the Todd Lane project and is in the process of moving utilities to make way for the wider road. Construction is expected to begin in September and will last about a year and a half.

Learn more about the upcoming improvements in the Aug. 8 blog post.

Todd Lane project contact: Clay Harris, project manager, Clay.Harris@AustinTexas.gov or (512) 974-7895

Burleson Road bike and parking lanes

Kopper, an engineering associate with the city’s Neighborhood Connectivity Division, told residents that Burleson Road will be restriped soon as part of a resurfacing project — gaining more parking in the process.

The new lanes at the south end of Parker Lane include one lane for parallel parking, plus two bike lanes and two lanes for cars.

After Burleson Road is restriped, four residential blocks will resemble nearby Parker Lane, which has one lane for parallel parking, plus two bike lanes. Click to enlarge.

The new configuration will be similar to Parker Lane, which was restriped in 2012 to have parallel parking on one side of the street (read the Feb. 18, 2012, blog post).

Vehicle lanes are typically 10-12 feet wide, Kopper said, but Burleson Road is a whopping 44 feet wide, and has 17-foot-wide car lanes and 5-foot wide bike lanes. The new configuration will narrow the car lanes to an average width, and will create safer, wider bike lanes and a lane for parallel parking along the west side of Burleson between Douglas Street and Santa Monica Drive. Parking will still be prohibited on most of Burleson, which will feature “buffered bike lanes” that are separated from the car lanes by a 2-foot-wide painted buffer.

In addition to parking, a benefit to the restriping could be safer speeds. How drivers perceive a roadway affects how fast they drive, Kopper said, and Burleson’s unusually wide lanes likely contribute to speeding.

The city might be able to reduce speeds even more at major bike and pedestrian crossings — such as between Santa Monica and Terrilance, where a pocket park meets a future section of the Country Club Creek Trail — by installing traffic calming devices such as concrete median islands. Kopper said residents can apply for traffic calming through the city’s Local Area Traffic Management program.

Resurfacing on Burleson will probably take about two days, and restriping, one day. The project is expected to start in early 2014.

NOTE: All of Burleson Road is still a no-parking zone. Until restriping allows parking in limited areas, cars that parallel-park anywhere along Burleson or on sidewalks can be ticketed.

Burleson Road project contact: Neil Kopper, Neil.Kopper@AustinTexas.gov or (512) 974-7166.

Other neighborhood concerns

The layout of the southbound lanes of Burleson Road (orange) don't match the traffic pattern at the intersection with Ben White Boulevard (Texas 71). As this aerial photo shows, about twice as many drivers use the  right lane as others, causing traffic back-ups.

The layout of the southbound lanes of Burleson Road (orange) doesn’t match the traffic pattern at the Ben White intersection.  Click to enlarge. (Google Maps)

Residents asked about the southbound lanes at Burleson Road and Ben White Boulevard, where current lane assignments cause daily traffic snarls. The intersection once had a dedicated right-turn lane, but now has two lanes for cars turning left (east) and only one lane shared by cars going straight (south) or right (west). The result is that cars stack up in the right lane, often blocking a driveway and a cross street, while the left two lanes are very lightly used. Drivers who want to head west on Ben White often avoid the frustration by taking other routes, adding traffic to smaller residential streets or cutting through parking lots.

Harris recommended contacting the Texas Department of Transportation, which has more authority over the intersection than the City of Austin does.

City inspectors are investigating why a new road surface that was designed to last 20 years is cracking and sinking in several places in Burleson Heights.

The city is studying why new roads that were designed to last 20 years are cracking and settling, such as Ware Road. Cracks formed in Burleson Heights less than a year after the streets were finished. Click to enlarge.

Neighbors also raised concerns about cracking and settling on streets that were rebuilt in Burleson Heights two years ago. (Read a Sept. 5, 2012, blog post.) The problem is happening throughout Central Texas, Harris said, and the city has been working with officials in several counties to find a solution. A study is expected to be finished in September, and any repair work will be done by Street and Bridge Operations.

Residents also complained about the poor quality of fill dirt used in the project. When the construction contractor replaced curbs, native soil was removed from yards and replaced with rocky soil. New sod that covered the fill dirt quickly died in 2011’s record drought, and much soil washed away, leaving behind limestone rubble. Harris said he would pass along the concerns in the Public Works Department.

Update: The resurfacing and restriping project on Burleson Road began Sept. 9, a few months earlier than originally anticipated.

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Neighborhood meeting Wednesday: Todd Lane update

Burleson Heights residents will meet with city representatives on Wednesday to talk about a project that will widen Todd Lane and add bike lanes, sidewalks and a roundabout at the new intersection of Todd, East St. Elmo Road and South Pleasant Valley Road.

The project manager and a representative of the City of Austin Bicycle Program will attend the meeting, which is open to residents in the Burleson Road and Todd Lane areas, cycling and hiking trail organizations and other interested groups.

The City of Austin is widening Todd Lane and adding bike lanes, sidewalks and a roundabout.

The City of Austin is widening Todd Lane and adding bike lanes, sidewalks and a roundabout. Click to enlarge. (Google maps)

The city has budgeted $9.6 million for the Todd Lane project, which will widen the 0.6-mile road from two lanes to three, and will add 10-foot-wide sidewalks and 8-foot-wide bike lanes, according to a June 26 Austin American-Statesman article. The city also will add storm drains, rain gardens and sedimentation ponds for runoff.

At its south end, Todd Lane now connects with South Pleasant Valley Road, which is 1/4 mile longer thanks to a $5.3 million project to create a continuous north-south thoroughfare in Southeast Austin. The intersection will have a new roundabout that will be able to move twice as many cars and bicycles as a traffic signal, while requiring fewer lanes. Learn more about the roundabout from the city’s Austin Mobility.

Todd Lane project update

When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14
Where: Ruiz Library, 1600 Grove Blvd.
More information: Project manager Clay Harris, clay.harris@austintexas.gov or (512) 974-7895

Previously, residents met with Kevin Sweat of the Public Works Department, who reported in 2008 that the city was acquiring necessary land in the area, revising rights-of-way and easements, and submitting the project for permitting with the hope that construction would begin in 2009. However, the project was put on hold and redesigned to be three lanes instead of four, among other changes.

Posted in City projects, Construction, Cycling, Meetings, Traffic, Transportation | Leave a comment

Riverside-Pleasant Valley intersection temporarily closing

A repaving project on East Riverside Drive will block the intersection with Pleasant Valley Road for about seven days beginning Aug. 12.

According to a City of Austin news release, during the project East Riverside will narrow to one lane in each direction, and vehicles on Riverside will not be able to turn north or south onto Pleasant Valley.

Keep up with this and other repair projects at the city’s Street and Bridge Operations website.

Posted in City projects, Construction, Traffic | Leave a comment

Preservation work can begin on South Austin landmark

The City of Austin and a nonprofit foundation have signed an agreement to preserve a historic house at Riverside Drive and Interstate 35 and operate it as an events center.

The Norwood Estate was built on a bluff near Travis Heights overlooking the Colorado River and downtown Austin. Click to enlarge. (Norwood Park Foundation photo)

The Norwood Estate was built on a bluff overlooking downtown Austin and what is now Lady Bird Lake. In the foreground is Riverside Drive. Click to enlarge. (Norwood Park Foundation photo)

Efforts to restore the house first began in the 1980s, but repeatedly stalled. (Norwood Park Foundation photo)

Efforts to restore the house first began in the 1980s, but repeatedly stalled in Austin’s shifting economic and political landscape. An agreement signed in late July will enable work to finally move forward. (Norwood Park Foundation photo)

The 1922 Norwood House and surrounding grounds will be restored under a Parkland Improvement, Management & Operations Agreement that was finalized in late July. Once renovations are complete, the estate will be a financially self-sufficient rental venue for private and neighborhood events, similar to the Zilker Clubhouse and the historic cottage at Mayfield Park. Revenue will go toward a park endowment fund for future maintenance and improvements, according to the South River City Citizens’ summer newsletter.

Few places are as emblematic of Austin’s booms and busts as the historic landmark. Built on about five acres and once surrounded with formal gardens, the one-story brick bungalow  belonged to Ollie Norwood, best known as the developer behind Austin’s first skyscraper, Norwood Tower — a fanciful Gothic Revival building built shortly before the 1929 stock market crash. The Norwoods’ hilltop estate also included small homes for their in-laws, a pecan orchard, a split-level greenhouse, tennis courts, a bath house and a swimming pool fed by a warm spring. When business slowed during the Great Depression, they opened the pool to the public for an admission fee. They managed to keep the estate, though eventually much of the land was lost to the right-of-way for what is now Interstate 35 and to the widening of Riverside Drive.

After the Norwoods sold the estate in 1961, the house was converted into a business and lost some of its decorative features to paneling and fluorescent lights. During a building boom in the 1980s, its sale to a condominium developer who planned to tear it down sparked neighborhood protests. Rather than being demolished, the house was moved off its original lot, its bricks were removed and sold, and many of its significant Arts & Crafts features  were lost. When the condo development fell through shortly before an economic bust, the City of Austin bought the estate for parkland, but never set aside funds to restore the house.

In the late 1990s, the Women’s Chamber of Commerce raised money to move the house back to its original site on an improved foundation, but the house remained boarded up and its grounds were used as a dog park. Amid another major recession that further strained city funds, in 2008 the South River City Citizens neighborhood group formed a historic preservation subcommittee known as the Norwood Posse, and in 2012 established the nonprofit Norwood Park Foundation to support historic preservation with donations and rental fees rather than taxpayer money. Through the public/private partnership that was sealed last month, the foundation will renovate the city-owned landmark and operate the events center.

You can read a detailed history of the house, see more vintage photos, learn more about the preservation project or make a donation at the Norwood Park Foundation website.

Posted in City projects, Development, Garden & landscape, History, Off-leash areas, Parks and recreation | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Neighborhood calendar for August

Here’s the latest calendar for the Burleson Heights and Burleson-Parker neighborhoods. We’ll periodically post it in the blog when it’s a busy month, but you can now get to the calendar any time by using the drop-down menu at the top of the page.

Arc of Texas will be picking up clothing and household items in our neighborhoods on Aug. 9. See the calendar item for instructions on how to donate.

Please note that Austin Police Department Region III has changed the date for its regularly scheduled Commanders Forum. This month’s forum will be Aug. 12.

Two informative events will offer details on upcoming changes to Texas 71 near the airport: An Aug. 13 open house and an Aug. 29 workshop. Read a July 24 blog post for details.

The neighborhood calendar has also been updated with school events and holidays throughout the 2013-14 school year, which begins on Aug. 26 for both the Austin and Del Valle independent school districts.

We welcome your ideas for events to include. You can make suggestions using the Contact page.

BacktoSchoolWhich school district am I in?

Burleson Heights and Burleson-Parker neighborhoods are in AISD, and nearby Sunridge is in Del Valle ISD. If you’re not sure of the boundaries, you can enter your home address in AISD’s school assignment locator or look at the Del Valle attendance zone map.

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Input sought for highway changes near airport

Highway planners are looking for Southeast Austin neighborhood representatives who are interested in serving on an advisory group on proposed changes to Texas State Highway 71.

The Texas Department of Transportation and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority have proposed the addition of toll lanes, a bridge and other new features to Texas 71 between the entrance to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the Texas 130 toll road. Click to enlarge.

TxDOT and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority plan to widen Texas 71 and add toll lanes, a bridge and other new features  between the entrance to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and the Texas 130 toll road. (Click to enlarge.)

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority have proposed the SH 71 Express Project, designed to reduce congestion, improve access to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, enhance safety and  accommodate transit, bicycles and pedestrians.

Planners are considering:

  • Adding one new toll lane in each direction on Texas 71 from Presidential Boulevard to the Texas 130 toll road.
  • Realigning the intersection of FM 973 and Texas 71.
  • Building a bridge over Texas 130 and connecting ramps between the new express/toll lanes and the main lanes of Texas 71 and Texas 130.
  • Widening Texas 71 between Presidential Boulevard and FM 973 to ensure at least three nontolled through-lanes in each direction.

In order to incorporate safety and mobility needs, preserve natural and cultural resources and develop aesthetic concepts for the project, planners will use a collaborative Context Sensitive  Solutions (CSS) approach that includes an advisory group of local residents and other stakeholders. The results of the six-month process will be presented to the public for their input.

Neighborhood representatives who are interested in serving on the CSS Advisory Group are invited to attend a workshop at 6 p.m. Aug. 29 at  the Austin Department of Aviation Learning and Resource Center, 2800 Spirit of Texas Drive. If attending, RSVP by July 31 to a representative of consulting firm Atkins Global at Sharon.Becca@AtkinsGlobal.com.

In addition to the workshop for prospective advisory group members, an open house will explain the project and get public feedback on three themes.

SH 71 Express Project Open House
6 p.m. Aug. 13
Where: Del Valle Opportunity Center, 5301-B Ross Road
Contact: Project manager Marisabel Ramthun, Marisabel.Ramthun@txdot.gov, (512) 832-7216

Other major road projects in the area include a $44 million project to create an underpass on Texas 71 at East Riverside Drive, a $975,000 project to resurface Burleson Road near U.S. 183 and an $8.2 million project to widen Todd Lane. See an aerial plan for the big dig at Riverside, which will create a nonstop freeway to the airport once completed in 2014.

AASBigDigUpdate: On Aug. 5, the Austin American-Statesman took a behind-the-scenes look at TxDOT construction at 71 and East Riverside. See videos, photos and an infographic of the work at the intersection, where two bridges, six below-ground freeway lanes and six ground-level frontage lanes are being built to handle traffic that is expected to more than double in 20 years.

Posted in Construction, Cycling, Meetings, Safety, Traffic, Transportation | Leave a comment

Fireworks safety for the Fourth of July

As the Independence Day holiday gets closer, here’s a reminder about safe ways to celebrate.

If you want to see big fireworks, check out a public display like the municipal fireworks show and Austin Symphony concert on Auditorium Shores.

If you want to see big fireworks, check out a public display like the municipal fireworks show and Austin Symphony concert on Auditorium Shores.

For a really big bang, check out the Austin Symphony concert and fireworks display at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Auditorium Shores. Fireworks will begin at about 9:30 p.m. The hill near the Main Building at St. Edward’s University is one of the best places in our area to watch the show.

Remember, aside from public fireworks exhibits, there are strict limits on fireworks inside the city limits and in Travis County parks. Our region is once again experiencing a severe to extreme drought, increasing the risk of fire from fireworks. Check the Travis County Fire Marshal website to find out whether there is a current burn ban, and keep an eye on our drought status at the U.S. Drought Monitor.

If you do use fireworks at home, please be safe and use only the varieties allowed within the city limits without a permit. Here’s a list from the Austin Fire Department.

  • Snake, glowworm: Pressed pyrotechnic pellet that produces a large, snakelike ash upon burning. May not contain mercuric thiocyanate.
  • Smoke device:  Pyrotechnic tube or sphere that, upon ignition, produces white or colored smoke.
  • Wire sparkler: Wire coated with pyrotechnic composition that produces  a shower of sparks upon ignition. May not contain magnesium.
  • Trick noisemakers: Including party poppers, booby traps, snappers, trick matches, cigarette loads and auto burglar alarms.

Remember, always have water on hand when using fireworks, and soak spent fireworks before placing them in a garbage can. Get more tips for preventing fires and injuries from the National Council on Fireworks Safety.

To report a nonemergency fireworks violation, please call 311. Call 911 to report emergencies such as fires and crimes.

Have a happy and safe Independence Day!

Posted in Holidays, Parks and recreation, Safety | 1 Comment

Bridge could get better paths for cyclists, pedestrians

The City of Austin has worked hard to improve infrastructure that helps pedestrians and cyclists safely get around town, but some big gaps in the network remain. With a boardwalk trail that will bring more bike and foot traffic to Lady Bird Lake currently under construction, the city is now planning improvements that might close one of those gaps at a bridge along Longhorn Dam, where Pleasant Valley Road crosses the water next to Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park.

Mobility improvements on Pleasant Valley Road over the dam could make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to travel around the lake, parks, East Austin, the East Riverside Corridor and the Burleson Heights area. Click to enlarge. (Google maps)

A mobility project at Pleasant Valley Road over Lady Bird Lake could make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to travel around the lake, parks, East Austin, the East Riverside Corridor and the Burleson Heights area. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google maps)

According to a May 16 memo from the directors of the Public Works and Transportation departments to the mayor and City Council, the city plans to add new bike and pedestrian paths to the bridge based on a six-month traffic study, which revealed that improving signal timing and adding lanes at the intersection of Pleasant Valley Road and E. Cesar Chavez St. could ease traffic congestion enough to reduce the number of motor vehicle lanes on the Pleasant Valley bridge. Removing two lanes is seen as cost-effective and as the only way to significantly improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists on the existing structure, the memo says.

Planners are considering:

  • Reducing motor vehicle lanes from four to two on Pleasant Valley over the bridge.
  • Adding two bicycle lanes on the bridge.
  • Completing an accessible sidewalk on the east side of Pleasant Valley Road between Cesar Chavez St. and Lakeshore Blvd.
  • Adding a pedestrian path on the west side of the bridge to allow pedestrians to continue on the trail that forms a loop around Lady Bird Lake.
  • Building median islands on Pleasant Valley to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the road between trails and parks.
A proposed mobility project would bring new bike lanes and pedestrian paths to Pleasant Valley Road over Longhorn Dam, and reduce motor vehicle lanes from four to two. Click to enlarge. (Source: City of Austin)

A south-facing rendering shows how the Pleasant Valley Road bridge could look if a proposed  mobility project adds new bike lanes and pedestrian paths. Longhorn Dam rises to the right (west).  (Source: City of Austin)

Currently, motor vehicles have four lanes on the bridge. Cyclists and pedestrians lack complete paths and safe places to cross between parks and trails.

On May 20 the city held its first public workshop at Martin Middle School to talk about proposed plans.

For more information on the mobility project, contact Nathan Wilkes of the Public Works Department at 974-7016 or nathan.wilkes@austintexas.gov.

Posted in City projects, Cycling, Parks and recreation, Safety, Traffic, Transportation | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments