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Photo by Google Maps, provided by CapMetro, shows the crossing in its current state.

Pedestrian crossing at Fourth and Sabine to remain closed another year

Friday, September 9, 2022 by Nina Hernandez

In summer 2020, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority celebrated the reopening of its Downtown Station at Fourth and Trinity, billing the new infrastructure as a mobility hub that would enhance the area’s public space and “make easy connections” between MetroRail and other modes of transportation.

Passengers would be able to hop off the MetroRail and access nearby bus routes and bike trails, MetroBikes, scooters, and ride-shares. The improved infrastructure was intended not only to improve mobility but to support more travelers at peak commuting times and during major events such as South by Southwest.

Yet two years later, a design hiccup is keeping the area from being truly commuter-friendly. Pedestrians exiting the Downtown Station and heading east on Fourth Street find their way blocked by a fence at the crosswalk at Sabine Street. In order to cross the street, pedestrians have to detour either to Red River Street or the Interstate 35 access road.

So the area isn’t exactly “easy” for pedestrians to navigate just yet. Despite the lengthy delay, a fix is in the works.

The Austin Transportation Department acknowledged the fencing in a comment to the Austin Monitor. A spokesperson said the department is currently working with Capital Metro to design a safe pedestrian and bicycle crossing at the intersection.

“The protected crossing will look similar to those along the Red Line east of I-35 near Plaza Saltillo, featuring gate arms and a host of other safety devices,” the spokesperson said. In the interim, “people needing to cross the Red Line can do so safely one block west at Red River Street.”

The Fourth and Sabine intersection was always intended to have a bike and pedestrian crossing, Capital Metro confirmed. There are even concrete crossing panels that installed during the initial Downtown Station project two years ago. So why isn’t there a crosswalk there today? Before the start of the project, a primary hazard analysis had indicated a “passive” crossing, which includes signs but not crossing gates activated when a train approaches, would be acceptable at the location.

Later, during construction, the agency learned the level of pedestrian and bicycle activity in the area had increased since that preliminary assessment and would continue to do so. Therefore, Capital Metro determined that the intersection would instead require “active” protection in the form of a crossing gate. That set off a new design process, which is currently underway.

The area is also home to the Sabine Street Promenade and the Waterloo Greenway.

Capital Metro is paying for the updated design, and installation is scheduled to be completed next fall. That means the Fourth and Sabine crossing will remain closed for another full calendar year.

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