Community Forum for Mopac Expansion– Third Time’s the Charm?
For those of you traveling down Mopac recenty, you may have seen the “Open House” signs. This is not a realtors open house. It is yet ANOTHER community forum hosted by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and the Texas Department of Transportation to obtain community input regarding improvements to mopac. Anyone who has lived in Austin for even a limited period of time knows that Mopac has become just as bad or worse than I-35. The Texas Transportation Institute ranked Austin as 3rd worst in the nation last year. (Details at http://mobility.tamu.edu/ums/report.)
And traffic volumes have only increased in the past 12 months. The Mopac traffic count across downtown is 180,000 vehicles per day. This translates to a lot of wasted time and excess gas used on the roadways. And the environmental impact of automobiles is directly related to the quantity of time spent on the road, not lane-miles of roadway. It is estimated that Austin drivers waste about 40 hours in excess traffic. These are hours above the normal rates of traffic congestion.
We certainly need to better solutions on our roadways. And we also need to create better and safer options for cyclists who wish to bicycle for leisure and/or transportation. This debate has too long been structured as an “either /or” question, when it really should be “how much of each”. How many cars can realistically be taken off the road during peak hours? This key factor is generally never discussed. Public transportation in our city isn’t a direct substitute (or even a close substitute) for using your own car, so I would venture that the amount of vehicles which could be removed is very low. In many cities, it is easier to use public transportation than to use your own vehicle. Only then will we see this transition in our city. The rail system, with current ridership of about 900 people a day, certainly doesn’t take many cars off mopac or I-35. Rail systems will certainly always have these issues when population density is below a certain threshold. At least the current trend of building with less sprawl will make public transportation a viable option sooner rather than later.
This will be the third proposal in the past few years regarding these potential changes to Mopac. There were meetings in the fall of 2010 regarding adding the express/toll lanes. This proposed $250 million dollar plan went nowhere. There were also hearings in April of 2007 regarding these same plans.
The four options being considered for vehicles:
- No Changes
- Adding an Extra Lane
- Add HOV lane
- Add an express/toll lane
For cyclists and pedestrians:
- A dedicated path from Parmer Lane all the way down to Town Lake.
Let’s hope that we get some solution, even minor, that alleviates some of the traffic congestion on mopac. I will look at the rates of growth in traffic counts in later articles.
The Meeting is being held on March 6, 2012 at the Dell Jewish Community Campus. This is located in the Far West Area.
Dell Jewish Community Campus
7300 Hart Lane
Austin, TX 78731
March 6, 2012 from 4pm-8pm
Additional Details: http://www.mopacexpress.com