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One-Way or Another, Parking, Bike Lanes Coming to Rainey Street

City of Austin

Transportation and Public Works officials briefed the Austin City Council today on proposed renovations to Rainey Street, the popular entertainment district plagued with more than its fair share of parking and transportation problems.

Officials said converting Rainey Street to a one-way street could add metered parking spaces, two bike lanes, and increased accessibility for those with disabilities, but also presented another, less drastic, proposal that would keep the street a two-way. 

City traffic engineer Gary Schatz admitted the plan is not set in stone, and it’s no magic bullet for the area’s congestion issues.

“It’s an imperfect solution,” Schatz said. “We acknowledge that, and there are trade-offs that we’re facing as we go through here. Our challenge is that we have such limited [space] available to us with a narrow street.”

The imperfection lies in the two proposed solutions.

The solution preferred by Public Works and the Transportation Department would convert Rainey Street to a one-way street from River to Driskill Streets. The street would be widened to accommodate a two-way bike lane and metered parking spots on the east side of the street, with another 57 reverse-angle spots on nearby East Avenue.

The other option would keep Rainey a two-way street — adding the bike lane, but removing parking from the east side of Rainey to free up room for traffic. It would also feature those parking spots on East Avenue.

Council member Chris Riley admitted that the department’s preferred plan would add more parking, but that it would only do so at the inconvenience of those living in the area.

“The problems arise at night, when [the] bars really kick into operation and you get a lot more congestion and traffic,” Riley said. “The argument is: Why should we make access to the area more difficult during the entire day, when, in fact, there’s only a problem for part of the day?”

The first plan would allow for 115 more spaces — the second, only 85 spaces.

Riley said that the difference between plans is a moot point — both plans provide access for disabled persons, both provide a bike lane, and both will add much needed sidewalk space.

The only difference would be those 35 spots along the east side of the street, which will be alleviated when the Mexican American Cultural Center installs parking meters and allows bar-goers to park in 125 of their spots on nights without an event at the center. 

Howard Lazarus, director of the Public Works Department, said some parking changes would take place immediately, while the renovation project would take six to nine months. It won't begin until after South by Southwest in March. 

And that's not all the Rainey Street news at council: City Council set a public hearing for a proposed conditional use permit on future bars in the Rainey Street area — which would allow for more public oversight and permits, as well. The hearing will take place on Feb. 28 at City Hall. 

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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