AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin’s Transportation and Public Works Department is on track to launch its yearlong Barton Springs Road safety pilot this fall, as city crews continue modifications to the roadway.
Back in June, city officials proposed the one-year safety pilot as a means to help curtail serious injuries and fatalities along the roadway as a result of traffic crashes. It came just over a year after an April 2022 vehicle crash along the road resulted in 10 people seriously injured.
The pilot corridor runs along Barton Springs Road from Stratford Drive to South Lamar Boulevard. The plan calls for a reduction to one lane of through vehicle traffic.
Other enhancements included widened bike lanes with physical separations from vehicular traffic; relocated bus stops at areas with safer pedestrian crossings; and maintained U-turns for local access and to improve the safety of left-turn movements.
City crews began street resurfacings in August, with new street markings underway at the Barton Springs Road and South Lamar Boulevard intersection. Following road closures for the Austin City Limits Music Festival in October, teams will finish installing bike lane flex posts before the full pilot design is installed and operational in November.
“First and foremost, this is a safety pilot,” said Lewis Leff, acting assistant director for Austin’s Transportation and Public Works Department. “We’ve got policy goals and we need to reduce our fatalities and serious injuries on our roadways to zero, and that safety is a priority for our city leadership.”
The department received hundreds of public comments on the pilot during a virtual open house back in June. Some feedback received centered on safer multi-modal mobility along the roadway, while also trying to limit congestion and traffic impacts on those living in the surrounding neighborhoods.
“I think there’s a lot of support for the policy goals that we have in place to make it safer and easier to access some of these premier destinations [like Zilker Park] by other means, besides being in a vehicle,” Leff said.
The pilot project will track several variables throughout the yearlong initiative, including cash data, vehicle speeds within the corridor and travel cues at signals. Those will be analyzed at both the six-month and 12-month marks to get a better understanding of the pilot’s progress.
As with any roadway shift in traffic patterns, Leff said it’s always necessary to marry the needs of all modes of transit users.
“That’s always the trick and the magic, right, is trying to make sure that we understand from all parts of our community what the interest is,” he said.
Some of those vehicular traffic metrics TPWD staff will analyze include following a.m. and p.m. traffic peak volumes and monitoring signal timings accordingly.
“[It’s about] finding that ability to make sure that traffic is flowing in the same way possible from a vehicular standard allows us to also make those design changes that will make it a lot safer and a lot more accessible for people that are walking and biking, pushing strollers, rolling in their wheelchair — making sure everybody has a chance to enjoy that particular stretch of road and access to the park as they did before,” he said.