Citing safety, Austin aims to narrow Barton Springs Road
Austin transportation officials want to remake Barton Springs Road.
Driving the news: To improve safety in an area increasingly popular with pedestrians, the city is proposing narrowing Barton Springs Road from two lanes to one lane in each direction from Azie Morton Road to South Lamar Boulevard.
Why it matters: That stretch of Barton Springs serves as a gateway to Zilker Park, particularly during the ACL Music Festival, as well as a route to downtown from Rollingwood and West Lake Hills.
Flashback: A crash in April 2022 put at least nine people in the hospital after a vehicle traveling westbound at over 50 mph on Barton Springs Road collided with another vehicle that was turning left at Sterzing Street.
- The impact of the collision sent the second vehicle into a crowd of people who were on the sidewalk near a food trailer.
By the numbers: From May 2018 through April 2023, there were more than 240 documented crashes on Barton Springs Road between Stratford Drive and South Lamar, with 81 of them serious enough to involve full crash reports from police officers.
- On average, a motor vehicle-related crash happened every 7.5 days over that five-year period, per a city analysis.
What's happening: After the April 2022 crash, the city lowered posted speed limits from 35 to 30 mph.
- But more than 70 drivers per day continue to drive at least 15 mph above the current posted speed limit, per city data.
What they're saying: "Recognizing Barton Springs Road is an important motor vehicle connection between MoPac Expressway and central Austin, the design for Barton Springs Road is intended to maintain motor vehicle capacity while improving safety for all users of the street," per a memo from Austin Transportation and Public Works interim director Richard Mendoza to Mayor Kirk Watson and City Council members.
The proposal includes increasing the width of bike lanes and adding physical separation from motor vehicle traffic. Among other changes:
• Creating safer and shorter pedestrian crossings on Barton Springs Road and side streets.
• Relocating bus stops to locations with safer pedestrian crossings.
• Improving safety of left-turn movements by maintaining U-turns for local access.
By comparison: Preliminary results for a project of similar scope and motor vehicle traffic volumes on Pleasant Valley Road, over Longhorn Dam between Willow Street and Lakeshore Boulevard, led to reductions in crashes on an annualized basis after the project was completed in 2021:
- 82% reduction in injury and fatal crashes;
- 46% reduction in total crashes;
- 46% reduction in crashes involving people walking, bicycling, or riding scooters.
What's next: A 12-month pilot project to collect data on vehicle speeds and traffic impact on Barton Springs.
- The city is collecting public feedback on the proposed design through June 30.
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