Transportation

Traffic, public transit, congestion, road construction and closures, I-35, MoPac, US 290, US 183, Ben White Blvd, and policy and planning issues related to transportation and mobility in Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson.

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Police may begin impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers who offer rides for money – and that includes drivers using online apps like SideCar.

Item 30 on this week’s Austin City Council agenda would allow police to impound “a ground transportation service vehicle operated in violation” of the city code governing transportation franchise agreements, like the ones in place with Austin taxi companies.

flickr.com/leelefever

Austin doesn’t have urban rail – but it’s already suffering from an identity crisis.

That was one big takeaway from a presentation by urban planning experts on how Austin can get a rail project up and running.

Austin is one of four U.S. cities chosen as part of an Urban Land Institute fellowship focusing on urban issues. The participating cities each chose a focus issue for a year-long study – and Austin chose rail.

KUT News

Some travelers at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will soon be able to get through security faster.

A Transportation Safety Administration spokesman tells KUT News this morning that ABIA is being added to the TSA’s “Pre Check” Program.

Pre Check allows frequent fliers who’ve met certain requirements to pass through a designated security check point where they may not have to take off their shoes, jackets and belts. They also may not have to remove laptops or liquids from carry-on items.

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

If you’ve ever wondered why a bus line stops at a certain place, or why some parts of town have more transportation options than others, this week Capital Metro has been having a series of open houses to answer those kinds of questions. Residents have shown a lot of interest in plans for urban rail.

Urban rail is still in the planning stages. But the first phase is expected to go from the downtown Convention Center through the UT campus and on to the Mueller neighborhood.

fragility_v2/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/fragility_v2/

The Texas Department of Transportation has received approval to use explosives to demolish the 80-year-old U.S. 281 bridge over Lake Marble Falls in March. Workers have already begun to take down streetlights, guardrails and parts of the bridge structure.

Kelli Reyna with TxDOT says that using explosives will speed up the process.

As they finally came off the Carnival cruise ship Triumph late Thursday and early Friday in Mobile, Ala., passengers from the ill-fated cruise told stories that call to mind TV's Survivor and literature's classic Lord of the Flies, the Los Angeles Times writes.

via http://www.flickr.com/photos/indyplanets/

Texas lawmakers will try again this Legislative session to outlaw texting and driving. 

Lawmakers voted to criminalize texting while driving statewide in 2011, but Governor Rick Perry vetoed that bill before it became law.

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A construction crane, half-nude cupids and thousands of beads are resulting in several full and partial road closures in Austin this weekend.

The placement of a construction crane will close part of Congress Avenue Friday evening. Northbound Congress Avenue will be closed between Cesar Chavez and Third Streets from 7 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday, Feb. 11. Southbound traffic on Congress Avenue in the area will be reduced to two lanes.

KUT News

This is the kind of Nemo you don’t want to find.

Winter Storm Nemo, which the Weather Channel is calling a possible “record setting blizzard”, is just getting started on the Northeast coast. But it is already contributing to flight cancelations at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

flickr.com/rutlo

A new study reveals what most Austin drivers could tell you anyway: Traffic here is bad. But the study says Austin’s traffic has grown worse than any large metropolitan region in the last 20 years.

The yearly Urban Mobility Report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute says Austin drivers have wasted the most time in traffic since they began collecting data, more than any other city surveyed in the national study.

courtesy SH 130 Concession Co.

If you drive on I-35, state transportation officials hope you’ll see fewer big trucks next month than you do today.

The state Transportation Commission approved a substantial toll reduction for 18-wheelers that circumnavigate the city on the Texas 130 and Texas 45 toll roads. Instead of paying $33 to bypass Austin, trucks will pay $11 or less.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority

A new pedestrian path has opened along a stretch of the 183A toll road, connecting Leander and Cedar Park. The five-mile, ten-foot-wide path cost $3.1 million dollars and opens in conjunction with the second phase of 183A construction.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority is in charge of the project, and spokesman Steve Pustelnyk says the CTRMA hopes people will use the path for recreation and commuting to work. 

Callie Hernandez/KUT News

Sections of I-35 and MoPac are singled out in a new report as being among the 100 top traffic challenges in the Texas.

The report (PDF) by TRIP, a national transportation research group, identifies four problem areas here in Austin. The worst and the toughest to fix, they say, is a stretch of U.S. 290 from MoPac to Farm Road 1826. The road offers no access for emergency vehicles during rush hours.

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Update 5:15pm: I-35 northbound is now open, though one lane may be closed through the night. The Slaughter Creek overpass will be closed through tomorrow.

Update: APD says I-35 northbound around the Slaughter Creek overpass will likely stay shut down through much of the evening commute. The overpass itself, which was hit by a tractor trailer, will be closed to traffic going over the highway for a day or two. 

Original post (2:14 p.m.)An 18-wheeler accident in South Austin has left one person dead and will shut down northbound Interstate 35 for most of the day. The crash and a fiery explosion occurred underneath the Slaughter Lane overpass.  

flickr.com/jakes_world

It’s the second day of the year and Austin already has two traffic fatalities.

An Austin man and his 13 year-old son died in a motorcycle crash yesterday. Neither was wearing a helmet even though Texas law requires anyone under 21 to wear a helmet.

People over 21 have to maintain a certain level of health insurance or they have to have taken a motorcycle safety course to ride without a helmet legally. Before 1997, all motorcycle riders had to wear helmets.

sobriety test
flickr.com/jmsmith000

Update: Austin Police have scheduled another “No Refusal” enforcement this holiday weekend, where a judge is on call to approve warrants for suspected drunk drivers' blood. 

KUT News checked back in with Austin DWI attorney Will Mitchell, who says that all of his advice below still stands. While the easiest solution is simply not to drink and drive, Mitchell offers the following advice to anyone pulled over: "Be quiet, don’t do field sobriety tests, don’t do a breath test, and refuse to give a sample of your blood. … Until you see a search warrant, there’s no reason for you to allow them to take your blood.”

And aside from the obvious danger, a DWI bust is still an expensive proposition. “Any number’s really arbitrary, but certainly the potential for it to run you, ten, fifteen thousand dollars is easily there.” 

Photo by Mose Buchele/KUT News

If you're headed on a flight out of Austin today, you may want to heed official advice and get there 90 minutes early. Or maybe even a little earlier than that.

KUT's own Mose Buchele, a reporter for StateImpact Texas, sent us the photo above from the airport early this morning, well before the day's flight schedule had peaked. And it's only expected to get busier throughout the day. 

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Following months of congressional pressure, the Transportation Security Administration has agreed to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to study the health effects of the agency's X-ray body scanners. But it is unclear if the academy will conduct its own tests of the scanners or merely review previous studies.

The machines, known as backscatters, were installed in airports nationwide after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009 to screen passengers for explosives and other nonmetallic weapons. But they have been criticized by some prominent scientists because they expose the public to a small amount of ionizing radiation, a form of energy that can cause cancer.

KUT News

If you’re flying out of Austin for the holidays, be ready to arrive at the airport early and expect long lines.  Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is advising travelers to arrive 90 minutes before their departure time from today through Dec. 21.

Checkpoints open at 4 a.m. to give passengers on the earliest flights ample time to get check their bags and get through security. ABIA has also temporarily opened a fourth security checkpoint to handle the high volume of holiday travelers and reduce security wait times.  

KUT News

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport had a record August, according to data released by the City of Austin over the weekend. 

A total of 838,994 passengers traveled through ABIA in August, up six percent from the same time last year. (August is the last month for which the airport has full data.)

United Airlines and its regional carriers saw the most growth in August. They flew 47 percent more passengers than in August 2011.

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