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View of the Drag

Council revisits draft Corridor Construction Program during work session

Thursday, April 12, 2018 by Caleb Pritchard

Tuesday’s City Council work session featured a swap of information between city staff and Council members regarding the draft Corridor Construction Program.

Council delayed a vote on the draft program at its March 22 meeting. That vote set the stage for this week’s discussion, which featured Corridor Program Office Director Mike Trimble answering several outstanding questions, though Council members flagged new concerns and drilled down more specifically on older ones.

In a work session before the March meeting, several members asked to learn more about the coordination between Trimble’s office and Project Connect, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s ongoing high-capacity transit planning process.

Trimble assured Council on Tuesday that his team has an open dialogue with the transit agency and meets regularly with its planners. He said several of Project Connect’s short-term proposals line up well with projects contained in the draft CCP.

“Including better connectivity to transit stops, supporting new stations, also looking at transit hubs or mobility hubs as well,” Trimble explained.

He added that the timelines of both efforts are in an appropriate sync. Project Connect is expected to recommend to the Capital Metro board its own recommendations for specific projects this fall. That would coincide with the tail end of Trimble’s team’s preliminary engineering and design work on the CCP, should Council approve the plan this month. That effort should unearth new data about the corridors both the city and the agency are looking at.

“We can share that information with Capital Metro and come back to Council and provide a briefing about what we learned as far as preliminary engineering and then get any additional direction that Council might want to provide us at that point,” Trimble said.

In a question aimed at her colleagues who also sit on Capital Metro’s board of directors, Council Member Ora Houston asked whether the agency intended to seek assistance from the Texas Legislature to build the Green Line, a commuter rail route included in Project Connect’s draft system map. To the confusion of Council members Ann Kitchen and Delia Garza, Houston suggested that a state law needs to be changed in order to allow that project to move forward.

She said the information came to her attention during a recent meeting with Capital Metro’s new CEO, Randy Clarke.

“I expressed my dissatisfaction that this had never come up before because I’ve been talking about the Green Line now for four years,” Houston fumed.

Last year, the Austin Monitor reported on an ultimately unsuccessful effort by two local lawmakers to amend an existing law that requires Capital Metro to hold a vote on passenger rail extension and that limits those expansions to only 12-mile segments.

Tovo asked Trimble several questions about proposed projects along the Guadalupe Street corridor. She noted that the University Area Partners had officially weighed in on the proposals and stated in an email that it opposed “in the strongest of terms” the conversion of Nueces Street north of 24th Street into a two-way street.

“As you know, there’s a lot of pedestrian activity in that area, so the concern about increasing non-local traffic is a real one in terms of making sure that it’s as safe as possible for the students in that area,” Tovo said.

A staffer from HDR, the city’s engineering consultant firm, told Tovo that the conversion is designed to facilitate more options for local traffic to navigate West Campus. The project will also improve sidewalks along the street.

“That will alleviate many of the issues that we have on those blocks to help mobility for cars as well as pedestrians through that zone so that everyone can reach their destination,” he explained.

As for plans to reduce 24th Street to three lanes by implementing a continuous turn lane in the center and running a dedicated bike lane on the eastbound side, Tovo agreed that that roadway can be safe for vulnerable users.

“Some additional pedestrian and bike safety seems appropriate,” she said.

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