Proposed Burnet Rd. improvements worry businesses like iconic Top Notch Hamburgers

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is planning about a $50 million upgrade for Burnet Road between 2222 and Mopac, using funding from the 2016 Mobility Bond.

“We’re talking about intersection improvements, better queuing up of vehicles, better signalization at the intersections and better turning movements at the intersections,” said Mike Trimble, Director of Austin’s Corridor Program Office.

Other proposals the city is also considering include building medians and consolidating driveways. Right now, Burnet Road has two travel lanes in each direction and a turning lane in the middle.

Trimble said those elements will work together to improve safety, reduce conflicts and reduce crashes. According to the city’s presentation, the Burnet Corridor saw nearly 1,000 crashes between 2013 and 2017.

However, the plan to build medians is worrying many business owners.

“We’re worried about Top Notch’s future just like all the other big names that have gone down in the last couple of years,” said co-owner of Top Notch Kelly Chappell. “I’m concerned that we’re going to be one of those places people can’t get in and out easily.”

He said under the city’s current proposal, there would be a median blocking left turn access to Top Notch and other businesses next to it.

“50% of the traffic is heading south. That’s 50% of the people that I need to have access to my business,” said Chappell. “There’s plenty of burger options on Burnet Road. I’d hate to take the convenience of Top Notch out of the equation.”

Chappell explained, the number of driveways for Top Notch would also be reduced from three to two.

Top Notch has a dining room, but you can also order from your car.

“There’s an entrance and exit for that, and on the other side of the building, there’s another driveway, so you can park if you’re dining in the restaurant,” the co-owner said. “The layout is designed based on three driveways, so to eliminate one eliminates the viability and functionality of the restaurant as a whole.”

When asked why the city is trying to build medians, Trimble explained, “Within the transportation industry, when you start seeing traffic volumes exceed 20,000, you really start looking at the necessity for improvements, such as medians.” According to Trimble, Burnet’s way past the 20,000 mark because it sees 40,000 cars a day.

“Medians are one of the primary ways we have to control the left turn movements, improve movement through the corridor and minimize those conflicts,” Trimble said.

But he added, “We’re concerned about Top Notch’s business, as well. One of the key outcomes we have for this bond program is support viability of local businesses, so we’re going to be putting in a lot of strategies to support businesses and mitigate those impacts.”

Chappell said he’s all for improving safety, but he’s hoping the city can do that without hurting his restaurant and neighboring businesses.

“In this day and age, convenience is everything,” he told KXAN. “If this one’s difficult to get in and out of, nobody’s going to come in.”

The city is hosting an open house Tuesday to get input:

  • Date: Tuesday, July 9
  • Time: 4-7 p.m. (stop by anytime!)
  • Location: Saint John’s United Methodist Church (2140 Allandale Road)

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