Even without funding, city proposes changes for Manchaca Road

Austin

Continuous sidewalks and bike lanes the entire length of the road, more signaled crosswalks and traffic light improvements are all on the city of Austin’s list for improvements it wants to make to the Manchaca Road corridor.

Wednesday evening the city will unveil maps of the proposed changes at an open house at Joslin Elementary School from 5:30-8 p.m. You can look at the maps here if you can’t make it to the meeting.

The proposals are the result of months of public input and engineering by the city’s transportation department, using money from the 2016 Mobility Bond.

Mandy McClendon, a spokesperson for Austin’s corridor program office, said the city is looking for ways to fund the actual improvements, but they don’t have the money right now. The maps are blueprints for what south Austinites can expect when the office finds grants or other means to fund construction.

Jordan Branch hopes the changes happen sooner rather than later.

“It used to be really peaceful,” he said, walking along the road with three of his children south of Stassney Lane. Branch grew up around the Manchaca corridor and now he’s raising his kids around the much-busier thoroughfare.

The four of them were headed to Garrison Park for a picnic, waiting to cross Manchaca at a signaled pedestrian crossing. He’d like to see more of them to help people get across the well-traveled road, especially near Crockett High School. 

“It should be a little bit more school-friendly,” he said.

The plans call for those pedestrian signals through the stretch near Stassney, along with improvements for other types of transportation, “whether you drive, walk, bike, or take transit,” McClendon said.

In addition to working with people who use the street, the city worked with Capital Metro and the Texas Department of Transportation to ensure the ideas fit with their plans. The Manchaca maps call for moving and consolidating bus stops along the road, though they don’t include any new stops south of Slaughter Lane.

Aaron Varela was hoping for some new stops. Varela, raised in south Austin, walks up and down Manchaca Road several times a day to see his family. “Since they don’t have no buses that go down there,” he said, “I always have to walk or actually take my bike over there.”

Varela will benefit from two other planned improvements, the bike lanes and sidewalks the city wants to extend the entire eight miles of Manchaca, from South Lamar Boulevard all the way to F.M. 1626.

Sidewalks exist already for much of the distance, but end south of Slaughter Lane. The plans also call for the new paved pathways to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The maps also show at least one new traffic light and changes to traffic light timing elsewhere. “Another thing that we heard a lot about as part of our public engagement process is bicycle parking,” McClendon said. 

The bike improvements would help Branch’s 9-year-old son, who will be going to Crockett High School one day. “He likes to ride his bike, and it’s really kind of busy,” Branch said. “It’s not the same as when I was a kid.”

He hopes the city finds the money for improvements before that day comes.

In addition to Wednesday’s open house, transportation officials will hold a pop-up meeting Saturday at the Half Price Books on South Lamar from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

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