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Vision Zero initiative brings second rollout of speed limit reductions

Monday, February 7, 2022 by Kali Bramble

City Council slipped a number of roadway changes through its brief, sentimental meeting this past Thursday, passing several ordinances that will lower the speed limit on a number of roads in Southwest, Southeast and Northeast Austin.

Prioritized sections of Convict Hill Road, Salt Springs Drive, Nuckols Crossing Road, St. Elmo Road, and West Yager Lane will all see speed limits reduced to 35 miles per hour, while sections of Tech Ridge Boulevard, East Yager Lane and Slaughter Lane will see their limits decrease to 45 mph, 40 mph and 45 mph respectively.

“Although a couple of months ago we were able to lower speed limits throughout the central core of the city, we now have the next phase of rollouts … so I’m very appreciative that staff has been working so diligently to identify the next steps,” Council Member Paige Ellis said.

The changes come following a series of traffic engineering studies targeting highly trafficked roadways outside of the city’s urban core (read: the area bound by MoPac Expressway, U.S. Highway 290, State Highway 71, and U.S. Highway 183). Following the Transportation Department’s piloting of its speed reduction program within these bounds, the ordinances are the first of the expansion to outer districts.

Measures to reduce speeding-related crashes have been in the pipeline since 2014, when City Council created a Vision Zero task force committed to the goal of achieving zero traffic fatalities or serious injuries. Modeled after policies originating in Sweden, Austin’s Vision Zero program is one in a network of programs across the nation seeking to eliminate traffic casualties.

While it may appear pedestrian to some, ATD’s speed reduction program inspires moving testimony by those impacted by traffic injuries. “We’re in the middle of a public health crisis where we don’t know what the solution is,” Pedestrian Advisory Council Member Heyden Black Walker said as the program broke ground back in March 2020. “But we have so many tools in our toolbox when it comes to traffic fatalities … I think we can all as a society agree that we can give up a few minutes of our travel time to preserve a human life.”

Those impacted will be glad to hear that Vision Zero initiatives have begun to show signs of success, albeit moderately. A Transportation Department briefing last October reported that, while traffic fatalities are on the rise in concert with state- and nationwide trends, data show that serious injuries have begun to decline.

In league with city staff, politicians at the state level have also begun working to address roadway safety issues. State Rep. Celia Israel, who recently announced her mayoral campaign, authored a bill last year that would mandate a default speed limit of 25 miles per hour on unmarked residential streets across Texas. Still making its way through the state government pipeline, it remains to be seen how the bill will fare in the House and Senate.

In the meantime, staffers will continue their work to expand Vision Zero initiatives to the city’s outer and underserved districts. Those interested in changes to come can check out ATD’s Speed Limit Changes map.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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