You could be forgiven for getting used to the site of torn up roads and construction equipment in Austin. But if you’re wondering why those things have come to the East 51st Street and I-35 area, the answer is a series of improvements meant to make the interchange less unwieldy and to update the East 51st Street corridor.
Since May, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the City of Austin have been working on the East 51st Street and I-35 frontage road ramp, which has meant the elimination of a dedicated right turn lane on 51st Street. That project is expected to take 100 days to complete. TxDOT says “Once completed, the ramp connecting the frontage road of I-35 to 53rdStreet and Cameron Road will eliminate the need for vehicles to travel from the northbound frontage road through Mueller and turn right from 51st Street to Cameron Road in order to continue northbound, greatly reducing the right turn demand.”
Separately from that project, the City of Austin’s East 51st Street Improvement Project is ramping up. That project stems from the East 51st Street Vision Plan, and is now in the preliminary engineering phase.
The $4.2 million project will partially reconstruct East 51st Street from I-35 to Berkman Drive. Funded by the 2012 Transportation and Mobility Improvement Bonds and the Mueller Redevelopment Project, it’s expected to be complete by 2017, according to the City.
The East 51st Street Vision Plan was adopted in April 2012, and is meant to promote coordinated redevelopment on both the Mueller neighborhood and Windsor neighborhood sides of the corridor.
Once completed, that stretch of East 51st Street will be a four-lane arterial roadway with a center turn lane. The improvement project will include medians with breaks at intersections; controlled pedestrian crossings at intersections; new tree-lined sidewalks on the north and south sides; a protected bicycle lane on the north side and an off-street bicycle lane on the south side; new on-street parallel parking spaces; and rain gardens and detention ponds for runoff and water quality enhancements.