Corridor Prospectus

Where the dollars get spent by each of the City of Austin’s Corridor Programs.

corridor-programs

Austin’s Mayor recently revealed his November mobility bond proposal. Approximately $500 million of his $720 million proposal is dedicated towards funding the City’s Corridor Programs.

The sections below summarize (1)  each program’s spending focus and (2) the potential contribution of each program towards helping Austin achieve minority single-occupant commute mode share by 2030.

Airport Boulevard

This is a 7 mile corridor in Austin’s core that traces Airport Boulevard from Lamar to US 183. The corridor program costs $74 million.

The proposal (PDF) transforms almost all of Airport Boulevard into a four lane road with a landscaped median, cycle tracks on both sides, and continuous sidewalk/trails. While the four travel lanes are retained, the program eliminates a turn lane in favor of a separated median through much of the corridor. The plan also adds drainage infrastructure.

airport-blvd-aldrich-cross-section

From I-35 to Aldrich, the median is designed to accommodate future light rail to the Mueller development.  While the program budget does include median reconstruction, it doesn’t include the costs of the rail line.

Of the presented $74 million, roughly 40% of it goes towards administrative, design, and construction preparation costs. Of the $49 million allocated towards hard infrastructure, $2.1 million is for the cycle tracks and $2.0 million is for sidewalks/trails. By comparison, $17 million is for car lane repaving (i.e. “reconstruction”). In addition to roadway reconstruction, new traffic control hardware and signals will eat up $5.6 million. New drainage and water infrastructure is $7.6 million.

In order for this program to contribute to transformative mode shift, significant new car-free development and light rail must materialize. Ultimately, the main capital investments are in road reconstruction and re-engineering for car throughput (e.g. the separated median, signals, controls, etc.).

Burnet Road

This corridor is the 5 mile north-south section of Burnet from Koenig Lane to MoPac. The cost estimate for this program (PDF) is $77 million. About $19 million is for engineering and contingency allowances.

bus-pullout

The program’s long-term vision includes protected cycle tracks, several bus pullouts, and eight new bus shelters. Of the $56 million in hard infrastructure costs, $2.5 million is budgeted for pedestrian and cycle track improvements. The plan’s language indicates that it’s likely some portion of the car lane repaving budget will be used for cycle tracks. The plan’s cross section diagrams only show striped bike lanes.

burnet-road-cross-section

From 183 to MoPac, the program funds center-running transit bus lanes. There’s no specific line item for the dedicated bus lanes – they are probably included in the $19 million for roadway reconstruction within the hard costs budget.  It also allocates $17 million for drainage infrastructure construction.

If significant dense development is allowed in the corridor, this program’s investments in active transportation and center-running lanes set the stage for commute mode shift. That said, as a whole, the program’s budget prioritizes road maintenance and new drainage infrastructure.

East Riverside Drive

This corridor runs the 3.5 mile stretch of East Riverside between I-35 and SH 71.

The long-term plan transforms East Riverside Drive into four car lanes with center-running light rail, as well as separated bike lanes and ten-foot-long sidewalks.

east-riverside-cross-section

The plan costs $361 million (PDF). $253 million of that is an estimated share for the overall cost of a light rail line. $69 million is the contingency costs for the overall project. This leaves $39 million of clearly-defined hard costs. Of that $39 million, $3.8 million is specifically directed at bike and pedestrian improvements (e.g. beacons, benches, bike racks, new sidewalk construction); a couple of million more from the road excavation and construction budget will cover cycle track pavement.

Much of this program’s non-rail investment goes towards the reconstruction of four roadway lanes, signals, and drainage. The $5 million or so invested into bike and pedestrian infrastructure is certainly helpful to mode shift, but any transformative contribution to mode shift requires light rail investment. Without that, the resources in this plan are mostly aimed at road maintenance with some car throughput engineering tweaks.

FM 969

A 10.9 mile corridor that starts in far East Austin at US 183 and FM 969 and proceeds eastward to Webberville.

This corridor plan (PDF) costs $111 million. $96 million (including allowances and admin costs) will be spent on road widening; mostly going to six lanes on FM 969, but also
some widening to four lanes on FM 973. The design speed is 50 mph for much of the corridor. To reduce collisions without sacrificing east-west car speed, this segment will feature “superstreet” intersection designs.

superstreet

Long-term, the road expansion recommendations on FM 969 include either sidewalks and cycle tracks or a shared use path on one side of FM 969. No bus stops are currently located on FM 969 due to the high posted speed limit which makes it unsafe to stop a bus. The plan strives to maintain high speeds, so bus service will remain very difficult to provide.

While some of the preliminary design images feature cycle tracks, this corridor plan is unabashedly about maximizing car throughput while reducing collisions. Given the greenfield nature of so much of the corridor’s development and the permissive environment for low-density development, this plan will not contribute to commute mode shift away from single-occupant cars.

Guadalupe Street

This program covers Guadalupe Street near the UT campus from MLK Jr. Boulevard to West 29th Street.  This corridor program is under development.  No implementation budget is available yet.

North Lamar Boulevard

This corridor is the 6-mile north-south section of Lamar Boulevard from US 183 to IH 35. The cost estimate for this program (PDF) is $76 million. About $18 million is for engineering and contingency allowances.

The long-term vision includes wide sidewalks and sixteen new bus shelters. Striped bike lanes – not protected cycle tracks – are recommended. Dedicated transit lanes are not recommended.

north-lamar-cross-section

Of the $56 million in hard infrastructure costs, $3.1 million is budgeted for pedestrian and bike improvements. $22 million is for drainage infrastructure. Road reconstruction, median construction, and new traffic signal hardware consume the rest of the funds.

This program’s investments in sidewalk infrastructure offer modest support for commuter mode shift.  This program’s budget is focused on road reconstruction and new drainage infrastructure.

South Lamar Boulevard

This corridor includes the 3.5 miles on Lamar Boulevard from East Riverside Drive to US 290.

The full cost of this program is $60 million (PDF). About $20 million is for generic allowances and design expenses. Of the specified hard costs, $35 million is for the construction of a new cross section between Riverside and Brodie Oaks. Of said $35 million, $4.4 million is for new sidewalks, cycle tracks, and complementary bike/pedestrian infrastructure (e.g. beacons, bike signalization).

south-lamar-cross-section

The new cross section features protected cycle tracks; wherever possible, the plan recommends conversion of the central left turn lane into a landscaped median. There are no dedicated lanes for transit. The program document deems them “impractical” due to the “highly-constrained” right-of-way. Some queue jumpers and bus pullouts are recommended.

In addition to the new cross section, there’s $2 million designated to help construct a bike connection to the West Bouldin Creek Greenbelt.

The program’s investment in sidewalk and bike infrastructure offers helpful support for commute mode shift. However, the absence of dedicated lanes for transit coupled with the inclusion of an elevated median potentially makes the program a physical and political barrier to increasing transit ridership long-term. Overall, the program’s budget is focused on road reconstruction, traffic signals, and new drainage infrastructure.

The sum of all corridors

If we exclude East Riverside’s light rail line estimate, the completed corridor programs recommend $437 million in spending.  The Mayor’s proposal will also include the budget for the Guadalupe program once it is finalized.

The combined budgets of these plans primarily support the maintenance, reconstruction, and optimization of many of Austin’s key car arterials.   In the case of the FM 969 program, the budget supports lane expansion.  The plans make sizable contributions to new drainage infrastructure.

The corridor programs feature relatively minor budget allocations for active transportation; some also have small-but-helpful allocations for dedicated bus lanes or light rail-focused medians (Excel). The success of these allocations in promoting commute mode shift depends on other policy choices (e.g. land use liberalization through CodeNEXT, CapMetro service plans), as well as significant new light rail capital spending.

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corridor-programs

The geographic location of the roadways targeted by the Corridor Programs.

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