More Mobility Choices Ahead for Austinites

June 14, 2016 by Kate Harrington

Mobility is the buzzword of the month, with individuals and groups proposing projects and improvements that would range from local roads to major highways.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler has proposed a November bond election for road improvements that could be for as much as $720 million. City Council considered the idea last week, and will likely make a decision about whether to move forward with the election by the end of June.

Adler’s proposal would focus on local mobility work, including improvements on busy corridors like Lamar Boulevard, Burnet Road, Guadalupe Street, and Airport Boulevard, as well as local mobility projects like the proposed urban sidewalks and bicycle trail projects.


Those improvements could include protected bike lanes, pullout spots for buses, and traffic signals that can quickly adapt to changing traffic flows. The extent of the projects is up in the air, though; staff members have laid out five potential bond packages that go from $250 million at the low end to $720 million at the high end.

Even if the Council says “yes” to a bond election, the timeframe is tight. Most bond packages take more than the few months left before November to prepare.

Meanwhile, the Central Austin Community Development Corp. has proposed its own mobility election idea: a light rail line it’s calling a “starter line” that would run for 5.3 miles along Guadalupe St. and North Lamar Blvd.  The group estimates it would cost about $397 million.

Austin voters said no to a proposed light rail system in 2014, but many in the transportation community felt that the route of that light rail – which did not include the Guadalupe and Lamar corridors – was one of the main reasons it didn’t resonate with voters.

State Sen. Kirk Watson also talked about I-35 improvements during a luncheon in late May, detailing how the Mobility35 initiative – a 10-year, $4.3 billion plan for three Central Texas counties – can play out. Some work that’s part of that initiative has already started, and Watson said work can be completed without putting an additional tax burden on Austin residents.

Diverging Diamond Intersection I-35 Austin
Diverging Diamond Intersections (DDIs) are contemplated as one of several strategies that make up the Mobility35 initiative.

“The opportunity is now to bring I-35 into the 21st century by updating the infrastructure and using technology to create the connectivity our community demands,” Sen. Watson said. “At the same time, lowering the lanes ends up lifting up our community.”

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Written by Kate Harrington

Kate is a former reporter, most recently for the Austin Business Journal, where she covered real estate, economic development and transportation. Since 2010 she has been running Thumbtack Communications. Thumbtack provides writing, editing and marketing services. Before moving to Austin in 2002 Kate lived in her native New England, which she still visits often to escape the Texas heat.