City improvements to Shoal Creek Blvd raise safety concerns

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin’s Transportation Department began work on Shoal Creek Boulevard this past summer after moving forward with two plans.

RELATED: Austin transportation leaders move forward with protected bike lanes on Shoal Creek Boulevard

The city is improving over five miles of boulevard stretching from 38th Street to U.S. 183. Due to the boulevard’s structure, transportation officials divided the road into two sections.

For the lower section, which stretches from 38th Street to Foster Lane, the city decided on Alternative E, a two-way protected bikeway on the westside and parking only on the east side of the road.

This plan also includes a new pedestrian and bicycle underpass at Ranch Road 2222, improved intersections, new pedestrian crossings and sidewalks.

Along the upper section that stretches from Foster Lane to US 183, the city selected Alternative Y which consists of a one-way protected bikeway on both sides of Shoal Creek Boulevard.

However, now that city crews have started work on the improvements some neighbors are not happy with the changes they’re seeing.

“Take it back to where it was, there was no problem here,” Jay McBride said. “Let’s just make it easy for everybody.”

McBride lives on Shoal Creek Boulevard and says he uses the road to commute to work and often opts out for riding his bike.

“The safety issue is the biggest thing for me since I do bike at night and drive it,” he said. “I don’t want to hit anybody in my car nor do I want to get hit by a car.”

At present, the two-way protected bikeway set for the lower section of the boulevard currently comes to an abrupt stop near the intersection of 39 1/2 Street and Shoal Creek Boulevard.

Through road stripping, bicyclists are directed to yield to the other side of the road.

ATD officials said this shift is temporary while they continue to work on the lower section of the boulevard in parts.

“This section is the first segment of the two-way protected bikeway to open,” ATD officials said. “The remaining planned two-way protected bikeway on Shoal Creek Boulevard north of 39th ½ Street to Foster Lane will open in segments as the work at the Foster Lane, 45th Street, Hancock Drive, and 38th Street intersections is completed.”

Transportation officials said they’re working to rebuild the intersections to create protected intersections that will enable the two-way bikeway design to continue through each intersection.

At present, ATD crews are working to complete the northwest corner of Shoal Creek Boulevard and Foster Lane and have wrapped up the southeast corner. Once they complete the work at Foster Lane, crews will move to 45th Street and Shoal Creek Boulevard.

ATD officials expect to have the work completed by next spring.

For Carlos Guzman, his issue is with the narrow lanes and drainage near his home at the corner of Shoal Creek Boulevard and Hancock Street.

“This side of Shoal Creek floods a lot,” he said. “Now that they will be driving on essentially water from a storm event, they will be possibly losing traction, losing control and probably causing accidents.”

While the corridor project does not include any drainage improvements transportation officials said, “We are addressing what we can within the scope of the project. Crews will widen the drainage inlet and flatten the slope, which will improve the drivable surface.”

ATD expects this work to take place when crews work on the Shoal Creek Boulevard/Hancock Drive intersection in early 2020.

In the meantime, ATD officials said bicyclists may use the general travel lanes or parking/shoulder areas in both directions on Shoal Creek Boulevard.

The city has also installed signage letting people know where the parking lane/shoulder area tapers to allow space for the pedestrian crossing — a total of 10 new pedestrian crossings will be installed along the boulevard.

Transportation officials said these signs are in place in an effort to raise awareness for people driving and people bicycling that people on bikes will merge into the general travel lanes to continue north or southbound.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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