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Updated: Reversible lanes may be coming to South First

Friday, March 5, 2021 by Harrison Young

The Austin Transportation Department’s plans to install reversible travel lanes on South First Street, in order to decrease travel delays on one of Austin’s busiest commuter thoroughfares, are being studied.

The project area surrounds a new development at the former Hooters site called RiverSouth, which is currently under construction. It is located at the intersection of South First Street, West Riverside Drive and Barton Springs Road.

A traffic impact analysis of the area was conducted in 2015 and 2016 to determine the need for reversible lanes. The study gave intersections letter scores ranging from A to F depending on the length of delay during peak travel times, with F the lowest score. South First’s intersections were rated either C or D.

After the study, ATD staff singled out South First Street traffic mitigation efforts as critical to the success of the RiverSouth development. These efforts include reassigning a lane for northbound travel during morning commute hours, moving bicycle lanes to sidewalks, installing a southbound transit-only lane and putting in lane assignment signage.

With the project in the preliminary engineering phase, the Transportation Department is in the process of “modeling the traffic impact of potential design concepts” and creating a schematic design as well as an estimated construction cost, according to ATD spokesperson Jeff Stensland. An estimated completion date is not available yet.

Clarification: A spokesperson for the transportation department told the Monitor that the project is far from certain and though it “may be coming,” remains a study for the time being.

Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority also contributes financially to the preliminary engineering phase in accordance with the Transit Speed and Reliability Interlocal Agreement, Stensland said. Stream Realty, the developer of RiverSouth, also pitched in.

When the study modeled future traffic scenarios it found that every intersection in the area that touched South First needed traffic mitigation measures like reversible lanes.

Since the project is expected to generate over 5,000 daily trips, with nearly 1,100 of those happening during commute hours, a traffic impact analysis was required by law.

In May last year, Stream Realty paid $955,000 to the Transportation Department to contribute to the project during the site plan review phase. It will pay out another $870,000 prior to completion.

The RiverSouth building will be a 15-story mixed-use development with office, retail and restaurant space and 10 residential units. Access points are on West Riverside and Barton Springs, with no car access onto South First. There will be a five-level underground parking garage and a sky lounge on the roof.

The project supports Austin’s South Central Waterfront Initiative, a project that guides the area’s redevelopment over the next 20 years. The plan calls for greater connectivity and pedestrian access along the riverfront and for 20 percent of housing units to be designated affordable.

The SCWA area is bordered by South First on the west, Blunn Creek to the east (just beyond Bishop Cidercade on Riverside), the river to the north, and stops before the SoCo neighborhood to the south.

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