AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s going to get worse before it gets better. That’s the message drivers should keep in mind soon if they’re traveling on US 183 near Airport Blvd.
In a news release July 9, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) said it’s “implementing a series of significant traffic shifts, as it prepares to demolish and rebuild the northbound US 183 bridge over the Colorado River. ” On July 15, it said the shifts will be delayed. It didn’t specify when they would begin.
The changes will happen in two phases:
- If you’re driving southbound toward Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, you’ll be detoured onto a frontage road, and you’ll have a new traffic light at Montopolis Drive.
- Later, the exits to Airport Boulevard, 7th street, 5th Street and Cesar Chavez on the northbound side will close.
- That means if you’re going toward downtown from ABIA, instead of exiting at the current exit, you’ll keep going north until you can make a U-turn at Bolm Road.
- You’ll drive back down south and follow detour signs to Airport Blvd. and other downtown routes.
“As you can imagine, tearing down and replacing a bridge across the Colorado River is not a small task,” said Steve Pustelnyk, CTRMA’s Director of Community Relations. “We estimate it may take up to a year or more to do, but we’re hoping sooner than that.”
He explained once the new bridge is built, access to the downtown exits will be restored.
“It’ll essentially be very similar to what it is today,” Pustelnyk said. “It won’t be a dramatic change other than it’ll flow better because there will be much more capacity. Frontage road will have three lanes, and the toll road will have an additional three lanes, so we’re more than doubling the capacity through that area.”
According to the CTRMA, the bridge replacement is necessary to accommodate the new 183 South’s design.
They are anticipating delays, especially during rush hour, to worsen, at least at the beginning.
“Traffic will certainly worsen initially,” Pustelnyk said. “That’s always the case when we make a change like this. As drivers get used to it, they’ll navigate it better. They’ll make changes to their behavior, take different routes, things like that, so we would anticipate that things would improve as time goes by.”
Pustelnyk said the biggest impact will be on drivers going toward downtown from the Airport, but he’s expecting the entire corridor to experience some impact the first couple of weeks.
People who were picking up their loved ones at the airport said the current situation is bad enough already.
“Oh, it’s bumper to bumper,” said Sundy Sans.
Casey Toole said, “We came down to the airport from Round Rock, and it took us over an hour to get here because we came over 183, and it merged down to one lane, and there was an accident there at the same time.”
They weren’t so sure if traffic would improve as drivers got used to the new detour.
“Now they got all the construction going on. Trying to rebuild more bridges, I don’t think it will, not anytime soon,” said Sans.
But once the entire 183 South project is completed, Pustelnyk said, “Congestion will virtually be eliminated on this corridor.”
A bumpy road to Callahan’s General Store
If you’re looking for a watermelon spatula, a cow-print umbrella or a baby chick than Callahan’s General Store in southeast Austin is the place.
“We essentially are five stores in one,” Charlie Wilson, the CEO and President of the store said.
For more than four decades, the family-owned business has united the city with the country but recently, the road to Callahan’s has become a little bumpy.
“We have been able to see and experience that growth of Austin,” Wilson said.
Orange traffic drums, barricades, and detour signs now decorate the store’s front parking lot, “The infrastructure is trying to catch up with the growth of the city.”
Currently, the Mobility Authority is in the process of shifting traffic as they get ready to demolish and replace the northbound bridge across the Colorado River on Friday.
“Traffic will certainly worsen initially,” Steve Pustelnyk with CTRMA said. “That’s always the case when we make a change like this. As drivers get used to it, they’ll navigate it better.”
Wilson admitted the construction work has had an impact on his bottom line.
“While we haven’t quantified the disruption on our business we have an idea of what it has done to us and we are addressing that,” he said.
He added they’re addressing it by taking orders over the phone and opening a little later to avoid rush hour.
“The prize is at the end and so we are being patient and hanging in there to make sure we’re going to be here when it’s here and ready,” Wilson said.