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Austin's Shared Streets program aims to make streets without sidewalks safer

The Shared Streets pilot projects on Arroyo Seco, Ullrich Avenue and Joe Sayers Avenue are making streets without sidewalks safer and more accessible for residents.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin is missing over 2,000 miles of sidewalks. With not enough time or resources to build those sidewalks, the City has come up with a new plan.

"Rather than taking over 100 years to build sidewalks on every frontage of every street, we can envision completing a citywide pedestrian network in a 20- to 30-year timeframe," John Eastman, project manager for the Public Works Department, sidewalk and special projects division, said in the planning commission meeting on Feb. 28.

The City is testing the "Shared Streets" pilot program as a part of ATX Walk Bike Roll, a program that Austin Public Works and Transportation is using to update the City's sidewalks, urban trails and bicycle paths. Shared Streets uses a pedestrian-centered design to accommodate all types of travel, ages and disabilities.

Families in the neighborhood have been taking advantage of the shared paths.

"We walk in the neighborhood, we walk on the street, probably every day,” Chis Cahalan said. "We walk our dogs, and we walk our baby."

The Shared Streets sidewalk of Arroyo Seco that Cahalan walks on has been there for the past few years.

"Once they opened, everyone loved it," Cahalan said. "We see people on it every day at all times of day, with all kinds of people, kids and runners and strollers."

Further down the road on Arroyo Seco is one of the pilot projects that will be there for six months. The other pilot projects are on Ullrich Avenue and Joe Sayers Avenue. After six months, the City will evaluate the designs of these projects to see if they were helpful and will remain in place.

But Cahalan is hopeful he will see more projects like these in his neighborhood.

"I think this stretch just goes from there to a little farther north, and it would be great if it was expanded south and more north," Cahalan said, "And just to have a more, a longer, path to walk on with sharing the road."

Shared Streets pilot projects will only be installed on streets where residents expressed strong support for the program.

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