AUSTIN (KXAN) — Drivers using the new Express Lanes on North MoPac have the chance to get from Point A to Point B faster — but as of now, it’s coming at a cost of increased traffic on Cesar Chavez Street.
The congestion is spilling over onto side streets, where many say they’re having trouble getting out of parking garages during the evening rush hour.
“If it’s right at 5 when everybody’s leaving, it takes about 15 minutes to get out completely,” said Rachel Bissou of her office’s parking garage off Second Street. “It piles up, and people are fighting, and it’s like, ‘just please, let me in.’ It’s horrible.”
City of Austin traffic signal engineer Robin Osborne says people experiencing the same frustration as Bissou are inundating the city with calls. “We’ve seen a drastic increase in the number of 311 calls we’ve gotten about people experiencing congestion, delay, excessive queuing,” Osborne explained.
The Austin Transportation Department plans to conduct a traffic study based on the demand. ATD says it will test out new signal patterns on the street as well as others nearby to decrease the backup. Other options are also being considered.
“Everything’s on the table right now, honestly,” Osborne said. “Signal timing is one of the biggest things that we’ll change obviously. We’re looking at striping at all the intersections along the corridor, we’re looking at lane assignments and some innovative intersections as well. Different sequencing of the lights, all of that is really in play. We’re looking at everything along the corridor that we could possibly do to squeeze every little bit of efficiency out of it.”
Osborne also encourages travelers to consider using alternate routes and schedules, if possible, to help reduce demand during peak hours.
Drivers also reported slow down issues stemming from re-striping the MoPac southbound lanes so that drivers coming from Winsted Lane lost their dedicated lane and must now merge with traffic. The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority says it received numerous complaints about the change, and is doing traffic modeling to analyze the situation and hopefully develop a solution.
The new MoPac Express Lanes opened in October after years of delays. Cesar Chavez Street is one of the areas drivers can enter and exit the toll lanes, along with an area north of Ranch to Market Road 2222 and one near Parmer Lane. Capital Metro buses started using the Express Lanes Nov. 13, and it plans to add more trips next year.