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ROMA presents recommendations for downtown transportation

Monday, October 19, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves

ROMA Design Group’s Jana McCann presented transportation recommendations at a town hall meeting on the downtown master plan recently, providing some idea of where urban rail stops might go as well as how streets could be reconfigured to accommodate rail, bicycles, and pedestrians.

The recommendations are the result of 18 months of work that started with a charette and continued with stakeholder input from city staff, Capital Metro, the Texas Department of Transportation, and CAMPO. Some aspects of the plan have been put in place in recent months, including the citywide bike plan update.

The concept of an urban rail line into downtown, first presented in July 2008, was back on the table at the town hall meeting. The line, which would connect with the commuter rail system and the potential Austin-San Antonio rail line, would have 15 proposed stops along its route: a line down North Lamar to downtown; a spine through the University of Texas, Capitol complex, and Central Business District area; spurs for the Long Center and Mueller; and a preferred route along East Riverside Drive out to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Rail is only one component of a larger downtown transportation framework, McCann said. During the planning process, ROMA looked at each street downtown and determined what configuration worked best. Not every mode of transportation can be on every street, she noted.

Various streets are given a priority under the transportation master plan. Pedestrian-priority streets include South Congress up to the Capitol, the full length of 2nd Street across downtown, Cesar Chavez west of Congress Avenue, and East 6th Street.

North-south bus-priority streets would be Lamar Boulevard, Guadalupe Street, South 1st Street, the southern end of South Congress Avenue, and Red River Street. East Riverside, 7th Street, W 15th Street, and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard have been designated the priority east-west arteries.

Bicycle-priority streets would be Bowie Street/Henderson Street, the full length of Nueces Street, East 3rd Street, the full length of Trinity Street, and Red River Street.

As for urban rail, that would connect upon South Congress and move across East Riverside, East 10th Street, and West 3rd Street, jogging up to W. Fourth Street in order to connect with Capital Metro’s Red Line, she said.

McCann presented three different options for Congress Avenue. In the first option, the existing 17-foot angled parking lane with street trees along each side of the avenue would continue. In each direction, the lane alongside the parking lane would be a 13-foot automobile lane next to a 12-foot shared rail/auto lane. In the middle of the street would be one 13-foot lane for left turns and rail platforms.

A second configuration would shift the rail lines to the curb in order to provide two lanes in each direction and a continuous left-turn lane down the middle.

And in a third scenario, in which rail, bicycles, and cars would use the street, an 18-foot sidewalk with street trees would exist in either direction. There would be no parking. Alongside the sidewalk would be two 11-foot lanes, with one offering a shared option for cars and bikes.  A 12-foot lane would be dedicated exclusively to rail in each direction, with an 18-foot wide platform in the middle.

East 6th Street is intended for pedestrian traffic. Under the proposed scenario, East 6th, between Brazos Street and Interstate 35, would have a 23-foot sidewalk on each side of the street and three lanes down the middle for cars, buses, and bikes. These streets, too, would remove curbside parking.

Sabine Street is intended to be a bicycle- and pedestrian-priority street. The street would have wide sidewalks and be two-way, with two lanes. One of the two lanes would be shared with bikes. The street would have no parking.

The Red Line would come into town on East 4th Street. ROMA has proposed that the stretch alongside the Convention Center would have two lanes dedicated to the trains, either departing or arriving. One west-bound lane would be dedicated to cars. A lane could also be used for bicycle traffic.

Nueces Street, intended as a bicycle-friendly street from 7th Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, would retain existing parking and have a bicycle boulevard down the middle. Colorado Street, also a bicycle-priority street, would have no parking. It would be two-way, with a bike lane closest to the curb in both directions. The center lane would be a dedicated left-turn lane.

Trinity and Red River Streets, between 7th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, would also be two-way with side bike lanes, but the east side of the streets also would maintain parking.

One option for 7th Street, between Guadalupe Street and Interstate 35, would be to have five lanes, with a central left-turn lane and no street-side parking. Guadalupe and Lavaca streets, where bus and transit are the priorities, would also have no parking. The streets would consist of four lanes. One would be a bus-only lane.

East 5th Street, between Brazos Street and Interstate 35, would be an automobile-priority street. Parking would remain on the west side. Two automobile lanes would be created, one that shared the lane with cyclists. A third lane could either be reserved for parking or a managed lane.

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