March 24, 2016
Austin’s growing mobility challenge is a contributing factor to the affordability crisis we face. Dissecting our city, I-35 between US Highway 290 and State Highway 71 continues to be the most congested in Texas and one of the most dangerous in the country. The Texas Department of Transportation reported the annual delays per mile last year for that stretch of highway was 975,552 total hours, resulting annual congestion costs of over $201 million. And that’s just an eight-mile stretch of one road.
The big challenges we face require big solutions. RECA commends Mayor Adler for designating 2016 as the “Year of Mobility.” His plan includes hundreds of citywide proposed transportation projects to be completed throughout the year.
Proposed projects include implementing the city’s Traffic Congestion Action Plan, which will retime traffic signals, repair vehicle detection systems, limit construction closures and continue the “Don’t Block the Box campaign”; improvements to problem intersections, adopting and implementing the Vision Zero Action Plan, and improve pedestrian access by constructing new sidewalks and bicycle connections throughout the city. The full plan can be found here.
While the litany of projects in the “Year of Mobility” plan are important, we urge city lawmakers not lose sight of the bigger regional picture. Our council is positioned to lead our city with an “all of the above” approach, while still keeping an open mind to new, innovative solutions—innovation is the true Austin way.
Additionally, let’s not forget to explore all multi-modal options. While rail is an important aspect, the bond election made it clear it is not a priority of voters. While our city finds the political will to embark on another rail project, let’s explore other options. Dedicated lanes, bus rapid transit and more transit-oriented development projects are all viable options for a more mobile Austin.
As we face our mobility challenges head on, we urge our city leaders to tap the resources and wide-range of expertise of our RECA members. If we are going to solve our mobility challenges and ultimately our affordability crisis, we must bring together the great minds and expertise of our unique city.