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Austin leaders look to improve road more than one year after wreck left 10 people seriously hurt

Austin Transportation and Public Works are proposing a pilot project, which would reconfigure lanes, widen bike lanes and re-locate bus stops.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin city leaders are hoping to improve safety along a busy stretch of Barton Springs Road that has been prone to crashes. Yet another recent wreck has pushed them to remedy the situation.

The Austin Transportation and Public Works (TPW) departments are proposing a "Vision Zero"-led "Safety Pilot Project," which would change how the road is structured in order to give everyone who drives, walks and bikes along Barton Springs Road safer access.

On April 8, 2022, 10 people were seriously injured after a speeding truck slammed into a car and sent it into a crowd on the sidewalk.

Months after the crash, City officials reduced the speed limit from 35 MPH to 30 MPH in an effort to encourage people to drive more safely. But they learned it didn't make much of a difference and found that more than 70 drivers per day still drive at least 15 mph over the limit.

"Having such a severe crash with such major impacts really raised a flag for us to take a look closer at that stretch of road," said Lewis Leff, a transportation peace officer with Austin Transportation and Public Works.

In a memo sent to the mayor and city council members, officials with TPW pointed out that from May 2018 through April 2023, there were more than 240 documented crashes on Barton Springs Road between Stratford Drive and South Lamar.

Leff said that they are proposing a redesigned road, with the purpose of mitigating high speeds. 

"We might not solve all the crashes that happen there because as long as there's people on the roadways, there's going to be some mistakes made and some crashes that happen. But we're hoping that those crashes don't have to be fatal," he said. 

"Design is how speeds are mitigated. If you're driving on a neighborhood street, you're not typically going 75 miles per hour like you are on a freeway, and that's because they're designed differently for different purposes," Leff added.

The plan is for the project to be in place for 12 months. Before anything was finalized on the project, City officials spoke to residents and businesses in the area through the month of June to get feedback.

Big changes will be implemented in the fall. The changes aim to improve access for people walking, biking and taking public transportation.

The new design includes changes to the locations of bus stops and the creation of a bike lane that emergency vehicles can also use. Construction started on Monday, July 17, and will continue until the start of the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

After the festival, construction will restart and continue through the rest of the fall.

Raul Moncada is one of the 10 people who were hurt in last year's crash. To this day, he said he still hasn't been back to the scene of the crash or along Barton Springs Road at all. 

Moncada suffered a head injury and bleeding to the brain. He doesn't believe he has any physical long-term effects from the crash – only emotional ones.

"It's definitely something that happened and I'll deal with it, you know, as long as I have to and need to," Moncada said.

Moncada said he welcomes the idea of a new safety plan and encourages people to give their input on the project – and abide by the rules of the road the best they can. 

"I think these changes will help in me trying to actually drive down there," Moncada said. "I still think about it .... I'm alive. I'm here. I'm fine. But if something positive could come out of it, that'd be great."

A lawsuit for the crash was filed on behalf of Moncada. 

Attorney Brad Bonilla told KVUE on Friday that there are currently three lawsuits, including Moncada's, that have been filed at the Travis County District Court for the April 2022 wreck. 

Bradford explained that there is a plan to file a motion to consolidate and bring each of the lawsuits together, which could be filed as early as next week. 

"We're not saying the businesses had all the fault. We're not saying the cars had all the fault. We're saying we want all the parties that potentially have a share in the fault to be put together in the same lawsuit so they can make a decision on who shares responsibility based on the facts and the evidence," Bonilla said.

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