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City works to resolve decadelong feud over Crestview gate

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 by Kali Bramble

The Austin Transportation Department closed a chapter of Crestview history last Thursday, passing to City Council its recommendation to permanently remove the infamous gate blocking vehicle access from Easy Wind Drive to Morrow Street. 

The gate, the subject of a decade of neighborhood squabbling, dates back to a 2011 zoning change to placate residents concerned about increased through traffic on Morrow Street. Led by a small but vocal group of members, the Crestview Neighborhood Association secured its construction as a stipulation of the Crestview Station development, arguing that the increase in density would lead to excessive levels of traffic from North Lamar Boulevard.

Since then, the Crestview gate has garnered increasing opposition on both sides of Morrow Street. Residents say that the gate complicates basic neighborhood mobility needs and acts to literally shut out Highland residents to the east, mirroring the segregation practices that have plagued Austin since it was established. 

Crestview residents also say the gate is a public safety hazard, restricting access to Lamar Boulevard to one unprotected intersection that requires crossing up to seven lanes of traffic without a traffic light. The Austin Police Department reported 384 crashes near this intersection over a five-year period, one of which was fatal.

The gate’s maintenance costs are another point of contention, costing the Public Works Department a reported $15,000 in tax dollars over the course of 2021. 

Riding the wave of support following the removal of the Morrow Street “pork chop” – another unpopular piece of obstructive infrastructure – the Transportation Department began an investigation of the Crestview gate last August. Following a month of baseline data collection, ATD opened access to Morrow Street for a two-month trial period during which it collected and analyzed traffic data.

While traffic increased following the gate’s opening, ATD found this change quickly leveled off to manageable levels, disproving the pro-gate camp’s claim that an unblocked Morrow Street would suffer from double levels of through traffic. ATD also shared that traffic speeds were not affected by the increase in volume, with drivers “continuing to travel within reasonable conformance of the 25 mph speed limit.”

Given these findings, ATD Director Robert Spillar issued his official recommendation that the gate be permanently removed from its station. “ATD generally does not support restricting or closing public streets when such measures do not improve safety or mobility for the greater public,” Spillar said. “Connected streets provide the public with multiple choices of travel routes … and support the principles of the city’s Complete Streets Policy.”

Council Member Leslie Pool, who represents the Crestview District, issued a statement following the release of the memo. “I appreciate the work of our city transportation staff in looking at this change to Easy Wind for Crestview neighbors,” she said. “I’m pleased to see they found no significant difference in traffic … and point to the benefits of greater connectivity and access for public safety services within Crestview Station. I also want to thank our neighborhoods for engaging with us as we explored this change. We now move into the next phase of removal, and I’m exploring those steps with our city staff as well.”

In the meantime, longtime followers of the controversy are celebrating what looks to be an end to the decadelong feud. For an entertaining record of the saga, we recommend perusing the gate’s Twitter account.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This article has been changed since publication to correct a typo.

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