Guadalupe Street plan proposes fewer car lanes to increase safety

Increasing safety on the Drag may mean converting traffic lanes to bus lanes on the one mile stretch of Guadalupe Street.

AUSTIN - The one-mile stretch of Guadalupe Street  from 29th Street to MLK Street  is the busiest crossway in Austin.

It's so busy that the Austin Transportation Department estimated more than 7,000 people use it every hour. That's why it proposes a plan to increase safety and mobility for pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders who use that stretch of road.

But there's a catch.

"I'll be honest, it's not going to improve things for passenger cars, it will be about the same," said Lee Austin, a traffic engineer with the Austin Transportation Department.

Austin said they hired a consultant to see what they could to do to improve mobility and safety in that highly congested area.

"The right of ways are constrained, the lanes are constrained, it was saturated 40 years ago, it's saturated now," she said. "Other than demoing buildings, which nobody wants to see, we can't get more lanes through there."

That's when they shifted the focus on how to efficiently move pedestrians, bikers and drivers, and came up with a proposal called Guadalupe Street Corridor Plan.

It includes:

- Converting two of the four lanes into bus-only lanes
- Removing the on-street parking on that stretch
- Providing space for protected bike lanes
- Widen sidewalks along much of the Drag
- Converting part of Nueces Street to two-way traffic, giving drivers an alternative to Guadalupe
- Converting one of the two lanes on 24th Street to a bike-only lane

But not everyone is on board with this plan.

Michael Levy is a former commissioner with the Public Safety Commission, the founder of the Texas Monthly and an outspoken critic of this plan.

"It's a stupid idea. They hate cars. They believe people should be walking more, should be riding bikes more," said Levy. "I've gotten on and off of a couple of those buses, just jumped on to see if anybody is on those buses. Those buses are empty." 

"We knew this would be a hot topic," said Austin. "We're not going to make new roads, we're not going to condemn buildings, make six-lane highways through downtown. Austin voters and  council people have told us over and over again that's not their vision for Central Austin, so then it turns to how we do move people more efficiently and the only way to do that is to put more people on fewer vehicles, and that's transient."

But Levy isn't buying it.

"You can't reduce congestion by taking away vehicle lanes. It's going to increase vehicle lanes," said Levy. "They know it, city staff knows it, they don't care. They want everybody on a bike but that's just not possible in Austin, Texas."

City staffers are expected to present recommendations to the City Council in the spring.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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