transportation

AM Update: 9/10/12
8:47 am
Mon September 10, 2012

AM Update: Single-Sex Schools, Controversial Highway, Texas vs. the Feds

The AISD School Board is looking into turning Pearce Middle School into a single-sex school.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

It's back to work and school today but with cooler temperatures highs in the mid-90s. Here's a look at some of the big stories developing today:

AISD Looks at Single-Sex Education Options

The Austin  School Board is taking another look at single-sex middle schools this evening.

AISD Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen had wanted to create single-sex schools at Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools as soon as next school year. But the idea met resistance from some school board members and parents. If the board decides to go forward with the plan, it won’t go into effect until at least 2014-2015.

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Transportation
2:44 pm
Fri September 7, 2012

At 85 mph, Texas Has the Fastest Road in the Nation

When a Central Texas toll road opens in the fall, drivers will enjoy the highest speed limit in the nation.

A new toll road is opening soon in Central Texas, stretching from Austin to the town of Seguin, outside of San Antonio.

State Highway 130 was built to relieve traffic along neighboring Interstate 35, one of the most congested roadways in Texas. But this stretch of toll road has a draw of its own: It recently had its speed limit approved at 85 mph, the fastest in the nation.

The dream of barreling down an open road at 85 mph is undoubtedly appealing to gridlock-prone Texas motorists. (Portions of SH 130 are already open - with a slightly lower speed - but have seen relatively scant traffic.)

Hoping that dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare is Russ Rader, spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a non-profit highway research group funded by the auto insurance industry. He notes that speed limits have been on the increase for some time.

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Transportation
1:17 pm
Fri September 7, 2012

This Austin Street is One of Texas' Most Congested. But Do You Know Where it Is?

You've likely been trapped in its traffic recently, but could you describe where SL 343 is?
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) names several Austin roads in its list of the "100 Most Congested Roadway Segments in Texas" today. One of the local offenders, clocking in at 68th worst, is State Loop 343.

Now who can tell us where SL 343 is?

Once you learn, you won’t be surprised by the loop's inclusion on this gridlocked list: SL 343 is the whole of South Lamar Boulevard. Starting at its southern limit at SH 71 and US 290, SL 343 travels north, turning east at First Street/Cesar Chavez, until it ends at I-35.   

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Transportation
2:26 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

More Details Emerge in MetroRail Crash

A cameraphone image of the April 30 collision.
Photo courtesy Twitter user JenelleS_KVUE, http://yfrog.com/mnhspfwj

This spring, Austinite Jeremy Barta was killed when a MetroRail commuter train collided with his car while it was stuck on the tracks at a private rail crossing. Barta’s two children also suffered in the accident. The train engineer was cleared in an internal Cap Metro investigation, despite a malfunction of the train’s camera system.

In a report today, the Austin American-Statesman raises new questions about the crash. 

According to police reports, the engineer didn’t immediately apply the brakes as soon as he saw the car on the tracks:

The engineer, Kazi Adnan Jahangir, 43, applied the train's emergency brakes and sounded the horn and bells only after realizing that the white Ford Taurus, driven by Jeremy Barta, might not move off the tracks, the documents said.

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Transportation
1:10 pm
Tue August 28, 2012

How Accident Prone Are Austin Drivers?

Here's a ranking Austin might not want to trumpet: coming in 149th out of 200 in a ranking of driver safety.
Caleb Miller for KUT News

Have any issues with you fellow Austin drivers? You’re not alone. Austin rests on the cusp of the lowest quartile in Allstate Insurance Company’s eight annual report on “America’s Best Drivers.”

Austin comes in 149th out of 200 cities polled in the report, which looks at car collision frequency in order to tally its rankings. Austin clocks in a hair better than its 2011 stranding of 150th out of 200.

By Allstate’s  metrics, Austinites are predicted to go 8.1 years on average between accidents. That may not sound bad until you hear about Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which topped the time between accidents at 13.8 years. On average, Austin drivers are almost 24 percent more likely to get into an accident than the national average.

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Transportation
11:59 am
Fri August 24, 2012

I-35 Lane Closures for Bridge Repair

Some southbound lanes will be closed over the next few weeks to repair bridge damage.

Starting this weekend, you should expect some lane closures on southbound I-35 around Stassney Lane.

Last month, a truck hauling an oversized load ran into the underside of the bridge, damaging it.

Though the Texas Department of Transportation says the crash didn’t make the bridge unsafe, it needs to be repaired – and that’s expected to take more than two weeks.

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Transportation
10:58 am
Fri August 17, 2012

Seasonal Changes to Cap Metro, UT Shuttle Routes

Starting this Sunday, Capital Metro and UT shuttle bus routes are changing with the seasons. Cap Metro says the changes are an attempt to improve the system and make it more efficient.

Major route adjustments will include changes to 30 Barton Creek, which will no longer serve the Barton Hills/Hollow Creek neighborhood, and the 323 Anderson lines, which changes alignment from Ed Bluestein Boulevard to Springdale Road and Tuscany Way.

Minor schedule adjustments will made to the following routes to improve reliability: 4 Montopolis, 7 Duval/Dove Springs, 19 Bull Creek, 30 Barton Creek, 101 N. Lamar/S. Congress, 151 Allandale, 243 Wells Branch, 323 Anderson, 338 Westgate/45th and 383 Research. Several Night Owl routes will also be realigned.

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Transportation
1:41 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Gas Prices Up Again

Gas prices around Austin are up five cents from last week and more than 20 cents from last month.

AAA Texas says Austinites are paying an average of $3.54 for a gallon of regular. That’s one cent higher than the state average.

Political tension in Iran and increased demand from the summer travel season are blamed for the increase.

Doug Shupe is a spokesman for AAA Texas. He says analysts believe prices will probably continue to go up – but there could be some relief soon.

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Transportation
10:09 am
Tue August 14, 2012

Cap Metro Adding Lights to Some Private Rail Crossings

Cap Metro plans to install flashing warning lights at six private rail crossings.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

Capital Metro is upgrading rail warning systems at some private MetroRail crossings.

Jeremy Barta, 32, of Austin was killed and his two children were injured when their car was hit by train at a private crossing in April.

Cap Metro now plans to install flashing warning lights at six crossings. The company will install the lights at one crossing per year for the next six years – at a cost of about $200,000 per crossing.

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Transportation
12:05 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Convincing Central Texans to Take Toll Roads

An example question from the survey asks Austinites to compare travel situations.
Texas Transportation Institute

The Texas Transportation Institute wants Austinites to fill out a survey about their use of toll roads and freeways. The Texas Legislature mandated TxDOT to have the survey done to evaluate the flow of traffic in the city.

The survey asks about when, where and how much time you spend on area highways.

TTI hopes to gather data that will help them find ways to encourage Central Texans to take toll roads.

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Transportation
2:12 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

Gas Prices Still on the Rise

Gas prices continue to get more expensive, but Texas remains below the national average.
flickr.com/m-i-k-e

Gas prices continue to inch back up. AAA Texas reports they are now at an average price of $3.36 a gallon in Texas.

The average in Austin is also $3.36, a 10 cent increase over last week. Prices are still about 20 cents cheaper than this week last year.

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Transportation
4:28 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Court Rules Portland's Naked Traveler Is Protected By Law

John Brennan, the man who stripped at Portland International Airport to protest TSA screeners, testifies during his trial Wednesday.
Rick Bowmer AP

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 1:29 pm

A man who stripped naked to protest security screenings at the Portland International Airport was exercising his right to free speech, a court ruled Wednesday.

John Brennan was charged with indecent exposure after the incident, but Brennan said he stripped only after he refused to walk through a scanner and security agents found traces of nitrates on his clothes.

Here's how he described the incident to KVAL:

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Transportation
2:42 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

In Bankruptcy, American Airlines Looks At All Options

Will American emerge from bankruptcy as a stand-alone airline, or will it merge with US Airways? An American spokesman says it's considering all options.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 6:30 am

Imagine going into bankruptcy with billions of dollars in cash still in your bank account. That's what American Airlines did last November. The thinking was that management would gut the company's pensions and union contracts and emerge from bankruptcy ready to compete.

But then US Airways said it could take over American and be profitable, and it wouldn't have to hurt American's employees nearly as bad in the process. American's pilots, mechanics and flight attendants loved that idea.

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Environment
1:27 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

How Natural Gas is Fueling the UT-A&M Rivalry

Researchers hope to make it easier and more affordable for consumers to own natural gas vehicles.
Wikimedia

When Texas A&M left the Big 12, many assumed the rivalry between the Aggies and the Longhorns left with it.

Now the two Texas colleges are facing off again, but this time there’s a chance both schools – and the public –  could win. Yesterday, UT-Austin and Texas A&M were awarded grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop cheaper natural gas vehicles.

UT’s Center for Electromechanics received more than $4 million to engineer new ways to refuel natural gas cars at home.

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Transportation
10:52 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Cap Metro Vice President Resigns

Cap Metro VP Doug Allen resigned yesterday.
Allen photo Capital Metro; Bus photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Effective immediately, Capital Metro vice-president and chief development officer Doug Allen has resigned.

“Doug resigned on Tuesday,” Cap Metro spokesperson Misty Whited tells KUT News. “It’s been something that he and [Cap Metro president and CEO] Linda Watson had been talking about for some time.”

Allen came aboard Cap Metro in 2008, and served as interim president a year later, before a national search installed Watson as the transit authority’s leader. In a blog from the time, the Austin Chronicle wrote that Allen was “the point man on recent efforts to get MetroRail up and running.”

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Transportation
4:16 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Driving a Hard Bargain: Changes Coming for Valet Parking?

The fees valet companies pay to use public parking spaces are being reconsidered by the city.
flickr.com/bump

At a meeting tonight, the Urban Transportation Commission will hear a presentation on potential changes to Austin’s valet parking ordinance.

Currently, a valet business can lease the use of a public parking spot for $250 a year. And approximately 180 parking spots are used for valet parking downtown. But as the city grows and parking becomes more scarce, calls have emerged to reconsider the fee, which hasn’t been modified since 1999.

Talks between the city and valet operators have been going on since August of last year. Both the city and the valet operators favor a change to an hourly rate. 

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AM Update 7/9/12
7:29 am
Mon July 9, 2012

AM Update: STAAR Retesting Begins, Legislators Look at Funding, Durant to Olympics

Kevin Durant, right, is nominated to play for Team USA in the 2012 Olympics in London.

STAAR Retesting Begins Today

Students across Texas who didn’t pass subjects of the STAAR exam will begin retaking the tests today.

Last year’s ninth-graders were the only students who had to pass the tests to graduate on time as seniors. Next year, the passing requirement will affect both ninth and tenth-graders. The STAAR test will continue to phase-in to each grade, eventually completely replacing the TAKS test.

Also starting next year, the STAAR exam will make up 15 percent of a high school student’s final grade in a subject.

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Transportation
10:29 am
Wed June 27, 2012

Commission Clears New Airport Terminal for Liftoff

A rendering of the new customs terminal proposed at ABIA.
City of Austin

The Austin Airport Advisory Commission signed off on construction of a $5 million temporary terminal at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to expedite expected flights for this November’s Formula 1 race.

The commission voted yesterday to recommend a contract with Siemens Industry Inc. to construct “a temporary customs and immigration processing facility” at ABIA.

Although the terminal is billed as temporary, the contract with Siemens includes three year-long extensions for maintenance. In a presentation, Siemens bills the terminal as good for five years of operation.

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Transportation
1:40 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

TxDOT Launches Interactive Map of Driving Conditions

TxDOT

The Texas Department of Transportation has just launched a new website designed to give you all the information you need before you hit the road.

DriveTexas.org features an interactive map that shows you traffic and weather conditions, construction projects and other information.

But before you use the mobile version of the website, you have to certify that you understand you shouldn’t use the website while driving.

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Transportation
8:47 am
Wed June 20, 2012

Overnight Truck Accident Closes Lanes on I-35

A cameraphone picture taken early this morning showing the overturned truck,
dirtybad.imgur.com

Update (8:53 a.m.): Police say all southbound lanes of I-35 are now open.

Traffic was diverted for several hours this morning after an 18-wheeler jackknifed on I-35, trying to avoid hitting a pedestrian. The pedestrian died. The accident occurred at 2 a.m. today, Austin police said.

While both northbound and southbound lanes were closed for about an hour this morning around the 5500 block of the highway, all northbound lanes were said to be open by 8:30 this morning. Southbound lanes were expected to be opened by approximately 9 a.m.

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