transportation

SH 130 Concession Company

The latest toll road in Central Texas is set to open later this month.

Operators of the newest segment to State Highway 130 – from Mustang Ridge to Interstate 10 near Seguin – announced this morning the road will be open on Oct. 24.

The 41-mile segment has gained national notoriety because it will have a posted speed limit of 85 miles an hour. As KUT News previoisly reported, It took a new law, passed in 2011, to get the new speed limit in place. 

The San Antonio Express-News reports that the toll road will be free through Nov. 11. 

Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

The Austin City Council will consider Thursday whether to authorize an agreement with Capital Metro to spend $5 million for urban rail planning. The bulk of the money ($4 million) will come from a federal grant that requires a local match of 20 percent ($1 million).

So why spend such a large sum when previous money hasn’t produced any visible results? That was a question raised by council member Bill Spelman at council’s work session Tuesday. “A lot of people are concerned that we are putting the cart before of the horse,” he said. “We are spending four million dollars when we really haven’t decided what to do”.            

In May, the city released recommended routes for the first two phases of Urban Rail. Robert Spillar is the director of the city’s Transportation Department, and he sees the release of the money as the next step. At Tuesday’s work session he said getting the city’s stamp of approval would allow the Transportation Department to “restart” the alternatives analysis. 

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

This election, Austin voters will be asked to decide on 18 propositions, including seven bond propositions totaling $385 million. KUT News is taking an in-depth look at all seven of the bond propositions, starting with the largest spending package: Prop 12, funding transportation and mobility projects.

According to the city, the $143.3 million proposal would fund the “improvement, construction and design” of sidewalks, bridges and roads to help ease traffic and congestion. That will likely include updates to Interstate 35, MoPac and North Lamar Boulevard.

The bond would also fund new traffic signals and pedestrian beacons backers says will improve safety, and help pay for a portion of the Violet Crown Trail, a 30-mile hiking and biking path from Zilker Park to Hays County. A full list of potential transportation projects can be found on the city’s website.

Love Austin is a campaign by bond supporters that hopes to educate voters about the city’s overall bond package. At a kick-off party at Nuevo Leon in East Austin, field director Ian Davis said he’s excited about the new trail. “You know I grew up hiking and biking in the greenbelt and now ... I have a young son and I’m just looking forward to taking him on this very new trail," Davis said.  "I think it’s going to be an environmental treasure."

circuitoftheamericas.com

Ready for the insane crush of traffic expected during Austin's inaugural Formula One event in November? The airport says it is. Cap Metro does too. But what about racing fans? In case they need help, the hosts of the Grand Prix unveiled some general guidance this morning, which you may or may not find to be the most obvious advice imaginable. 

F1 track owners Circuit of the Americas issued a statement today detailing a “comprehensive plan” to expedite  traffic to the track. The COTA team’s general guidelines include:

  • Carpooling to the COTA site
  • Budgeting enough time. “Attendees should expect to add at least one hour to their travel time to get to their shuttle Park + Ride location and at least 90 minutes to get from their lodgings to the Circuit with an on-site parking pass.”
  • Not bringing stuff you’re not supposed to (Booze, animals, "illegal substances")
  • Using the directions you’re given with your ticket. “Please follow printing directions rather than GPS-identified routes.”
  • Expecting traffic and its delays
  • Planning to spend all day at the Circuit
  • Dressing appropriately, presumably so you won’t need to leave the premises.
bus photo Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News; F1 photo flickr.com/paulwoolrich

More than 120,000 people are expected to flock to the Austin area for the upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix. And you can bet that many of those visitors will want to take in Austin’s downtown scene.

So while the cars on the Circuit of the Americas track will reach speeds of around 200 miles per hour, the traffic that comes with all those visitors could mean chugging along at a snail’s pace downtown. That is, on the roads that remain open—most of Congress Avenue will be closed from the capitol to the lake over race weekend. And many East-West streets will be partially shut down between Lavaca Street and Neches Street.

Capital Metro is expanding bus and rail service to help.

Visitors (or Austinites getting out of town in an effort to avoid the mayhem) can take advantage of a $1 bus service running between Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and downtown.

KUT News

Austin’s roads cost each local driver $1,200 a year. That's according to TRIP, a highway industry nonprofit. The organization also found that deficient roads in Texas cost drivers a total of $23 billion each year.

The report says poor road conditions cause accidents and additional traffic which lead to longer commute times and greater fuel usage. Substandard roads can also result in more wear and tear to vehicles and tires, resulting in higher maintenance costs. 

Overall, TRIP found that 18 percent of Texas’s major urban roads are in poor condition, while 27 percent are considered mediocre. Though $1,200 a year isn't chump change, the report still found Austin has the fewest number of roads in poor condition with nine percent. San Antonio ranks highest, with 33 percent of its roads in poor condition. 

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

It was a dangerous night on Austin roads as three separate incidents lead to three deaths.

The lower deck of Interstate 35 was closed at the split this morning, due to a fatality in the 3200 block of the interstate.

KXAN spoke with Austin Police Sgt. Daniel Watson; he told the station a man was “running in the lanes” along the interstate, near St. David’s Hospital, and was killed after getting hit by a truck. The motorist stayed at the scene and cooperated with authorities.

In southeast Travis County, another pedestrian and auto collision occurred at Highway 71 East and FM 973. The incident closed all westbound lanes of Highway 71. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the pedestrian was also in the road, and the driver also remained on the scene.

Michael Stravato

The baby boom — that fat lump that has been moving through the demographic snake since the end of World War II — is now made up of people between 45 and 65 years old, give or take.

They are starting to retire, prompting some of the growing conversations about pensions. Their bodies are getting old, which explains some of the ballooning advertising about drugs for this or that. Seen all the hearing aid ads in the paper? Products for gray hair? Couples sitting in bathtubs next to lakes?

As of 2010, 13 percent of the nation’s population was 65 or older. By 2030, demographers reckon that group will account for 19.3 percent of the population. Boomers are not babies anymore — and there are some public policy ramifications.

Pat Henneberry is an airline's dream customer. She flies all week, every week, and buying an $800 ticket so that she can have full flexibility is standard operating procedure. She's an American Airlines platinum customer. But she is fed up with the endless delays and cancellations.

Max Ually via Texas Tribune

In a matter of weeks, a 41-mile stretch of toll road with the fastest speed limit in the country will open in Central Texas.

But truck drivers may steer clear of the new high-speed road, said John Esparza, president of the Texas Motor Transportation Association, which represents the trucking industry in Texas.

“It’s going to be a deterrent, yes,” Esparza said of the road’s 85 mph speed limit.

The Texas Department of Transportation has said it pursued a higher speed limit for the new portion of State Highway 130 from Austin to Seguin in part to entice drivers away from more congested highways. Agency officials have said engineering tests demonstrated that an 85-mph speed limit is safe for the new toll road.

While he acknowledged that some truck drivers drive faster than 65 mph, most trucking companies try to keep drivers from traveling faster than that speed, both out of concerns for safety and because it reduces a truck's gas mileage, Esparza said. 

flickr.com/atmtx

The Austin City Council meets today. Among the items it’s expected to approve: a resolution supporting marriage equality for gay couples, the first such measure from a Texas city.

The city’s draft resolution reads in part:

WHEREAS, all couples in loving and committed relationships should be given the opportunity to create stronger and more successful families through civil marriage; and 

WHEREAS, it is the intent of civil rights organizations in the State of Texas including Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (etc…) to end discrimination in marriage based on gender and sexual orientation in Texas, to ensure that all persons in this state may enjoy the freedom to marry on equal terms;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF AUSTIN:

That we support marriage equality in the State of Texas.

The resolution is expected to pass unanimously; Mayor Lee Leffingwell previously joined dozens of other U.S. mayors in calling for marriage equality.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Capital Metro Board of Directors is meeting this afternoon to adopt the transit company’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year.

The proposed budget won’t increase fares and doesn’t include any service additions or reductions.

Cap Metro says 2013 will be a “lean” year as the company focuses on maintenance and updating its fleet of buses.

"While our revenues from sales tax and other sources are healthy for next year, it is sort of a lean year for us in that we have a number of maintenance and state of good repair type of investments that need to be made. So we'll be buying new buses, making some technology upgrades, ultimately it means better service out on the streets of Austin and on the railroad of Austin but nothing super exciting this year," Capital Metro Spokesperson Erica Macioge says.

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.

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.

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.   

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.

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.

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.

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.

Gas Prices Up Again

Aug 16, 2012

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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