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First phase of South Lamar bike lanes delayed nearly two years

Friday, January 21, 2022 by Jonathan Lee

Work on a major face-lift to South Lamar Boulevard between Riverside Drive and Barton Springs Road was supposed to have been well underway by now, but as those who frequent the stretch know, not much has changed.

That’s because the “road diet” project, which will remove one lane each way to add protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks, has been delayed until at least late fall or early winter of this year – nearly two years later than planned – the Corridor Program Office told the Austin Monitor this week. “It is not uncommon for large-scale infrastructure improvement projects, such as the Corridor Construction Program, to encounter construction delays,” spokesperson Dea Crichton said.

The office is working on an updated construction timeline; Crichton said work could now happen alongside improvements to the rest of South Lamar, which are planned to start late this year and finish in 2024.

What’s with the delay? “Ongoing interagency coordination” on the project’s design, Crichton said. 

Other agencies in addition to the city have a say in the road’s design, including Project Connect and the Texas Department of Transportation, which technically controls the road. Crichton said the agencies are not in conflict – each simply has different guidelines governing the nitty-gritty of street design that need to be accounted for. Nonetheless, the coordination has taken longer than expected. 

The general design of the segment remains unchanged. In addition to widening sidewalks and adding two-way protected bike lanes, the project will close certain driveways, move bus stops, modify traffic signals, and add landscaping – all with the goal of making the area safer, more pleasant and more efficient for everyone. 

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Construction was imminent in December 2020. City Council approved a $6.9 million contract with DeNucci Constructors, and “Coming Soon” signs were posted along South Lamar. But as the final design took longer than expected, the city canceled the contract last fall, and the signs were hauled off. The contractor will receive a payment from the city, though the amount has not yet been disclosed. 

If the Corridor Program team finishes its coordination work by the fall as expected, that’s when a new bidding process will begin – likely for construction on the entire corridor. 

South Lamar between Barton Springs and Highway 290 will see similar, if less drastic changes. Bikeways will be one-way instead of two-way, and at times will turn into shared-use paths – essentially wide sidewalks with paint marking lanes for bikes and pedestrians. The number of car lanes will remain the same. Construction will occur in phases to mitigate congestion. The total cost is estimated to be from $34 million to $42 million, with funds coming from the 2016 mobility bond. 

Crichton emphasized that other corridor projects remain on schedule, and that minor work such as pedestrian signals on North Lamar, Burnet Road and William Cannon Drive have made those roads safer ahead of major work planned in the next few years. 

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