Traffic

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.

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.

flickr.com/mirsasha

For almost 10 years, traffic deaths were relatively low in Austin. Then last year they spiked. Now two city council members want a study to look into why so many people died on Austin’s roads in 2012.

Austin City Council Member Laura Morrison is certain that population growth cannot be the reason for so many traffic deaths. At least, not the only reason.  “We got to figure out why,” Morrison says. “That spike and that increase is actually a trend that we are seeing nationwide. So, I suspect there’s something going on much more generally across the nation that our increase might be related to.”

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.  


View Water Main Break in a larger map

Austin Water Utility crews have shut down two lanes of South 1st Street because of a water main break.

One northbound lane and one southbound lane of South 1st Street is closed between St. Elmo Road and Radam Lane. That’s just south of Ben White Boulevard.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

Today is historically one of the busiest travel days of the year. KUT News has compiled a list of things you need to know before you hit the roads... or skies.

1. Yes, It May be Busy

AAA Texas estimates that about 3 million people in Texas will hit the road for Thanksgiving—that's up about 1.6 percent from last year.

2. It May Cost You Less to Fill Up

The good news for those travelers is that gas prices across the state continue to fall. The statewide average price for a gallon of unleaded is $3.16. Prices in Austin are slightly higher at $3.19.

Click here to find gas prices near you.

3. You'll Probably See Officers Out

The Austin Police Department and the Department of Public Safety will have more officers on the roads over the next few days. They’ll be targeting speeders and drunk drivers.

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

Austin’s first Formula 1 race is now in the record books. McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton won the U.S. Grand Prix.

Thousands of F1 fans are now headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Officials say today could be one of the busiest days ever at the airport. To help with increased demand, airlines added seven flights today and a total of more than 2,500 additional seats.

The city is expecting heavy traffic around the airport and longer-than-normal screening lines. Airport officials say passengers need to arrive at least two hours before takeoff.

flickr.com/green-ghost

The National Weather Service has issued a Dense Fog Advisory for much of Central Texas this morning. The advisory is in effect until 10 a.m.

Forecasters say areas of dense fog are expected through the morning—especially along and southeast of I-35. Visibility could drop below one quarter of a mile.

Counties under the advisory:

  • Travis
  • Williamson
  • Hays
  • Bastrop
  • Lee
  • Caldwell

Photo courtesy the Circuit of the Americas

F1 is still three weeks away. Or only three weeks away, as the city is looking at it. Austin is making some big preparations as the big race weekend approaches.

City Cleanup

  • The Public Works Operation will be cleaning up downtown around all the construction sites.
  • City contractors will clean and restore pedestrian access areas downtown.
  • Austin Resource Recovery is planning ahead for the big weekend. They will adding up to 200 additional trash receptacles downtown.  They will also be ramping up their downtown litter control services to extended to a much larger area.

View Truck Convoy Route (i.e., where to avoid) in a larger map

A stretch of US 183 in Cedar Park will be closed this morning.

Starting at 9 a.m., 183 will shut down between the Leander city limit and RM 620. The freeway will stay closed until sometime around noon.

The closure is needed to make room for two trucks carrying oversize loads. Power lines and stoplights need to be lifted along the route to allow the trucks to pass underneath.

Intersections and sections of the highway will be open before and after the trucks pass through each intersection, but traffic will be unable to pass the trucks in either direction.

flickr.com/webhostingreview

Law enforcement agencies across Central Texas are cracking down on drivers who ignore the state’s “move over” law.

When emergency responders are stopped on the roadway, drivers are required to move over a lane to pass or to slow down to 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. If the speed limit is below 25 mph, drivers are required to slow to 5 mph.

For the next three weeks, Austin Police Department officers and law enforcement officers from at 20 other departments say they will will target drivers who illegally pass emergency vehicles.

Sean C. Murphy for KUT News

With 70,000 people making their way there each day, you can expect heavy traffic this weekend as people head down to the Austin City Limits Music Festival

Big delays around ACL host Zilker Park are a given. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Catch the Bus: Roads will also be closed around Republic Square Park at Fifth Street and Guadalupe Street to make room for Capital Metro's free ACL Shuttle at downtown. The shuttle drops off at ACL’s doorstep in Zilker Park.

flickr.com/jorgemichel

Capital Metro is reaching out to residents in the suburbs north of Austin for input on possible transit options for connecting them to Central Austin. Cap Metro says it’s the number one transportation priority for the region. The big reason? A lot of people may live in Williamson County, but many of them work in Travis County.

Cap Metro has already heard from people during traditional open houses. Now, the transit company is seeking input through a website – what it’s calling an “Online Open House.”

The website lets visitors control what looks like a sort of power point presentation. It highlights a few problems: congestion, rapid population growth and the restraints of the current highway system.

But what Cap Metro says it’s really interested in is feedback. One of the most interesting forms of feedback that commuters can give is on the site’s “Interactive Map.” Website visitors are invited to draw in suggested transportation alternatives for getting around in the North Corridor during rush hour.

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. 

Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The frontage road of Interstate 35 between FM 1327 and Slaughter Lane is expected to be closed for much of the day after a fuel spill this morning.

For much of the morning, all northbound lanes of the highway were also closed in the area — causing major traffic delays.

The Austin Fire Department says an estimated 700 gallons of fuel spilled on the roadway when an 18-wheeler overturned, creating a need for careful cleanup that shut the highway through morning rush hour.

But AFD Battalion Chief Palmer Buck says, in years past, the closures would have been even longer because the department would have had to wait for the trucking company to send a cleanup team.

“The Austin Fire Department is one of the few teams that has the equipment and the expertise to do this," Buck says. "A decade ago, we would have had to wait six to eight hours before the operation even started, so we would be talking about sometime this evening before we got the roads open."

Map Data @2012 Google

Update (8:47 a.m.): Austin Police say the northbound lanes of I-35 are now open. The frontage road is still closed, however, until further notice.

Update (8:36 a.m.): AISD says Blazier Elementary School is being affected by the shutdown of I-35 - but the school is still open. The district says some buses headed for the school have been delayed, but classes have begun on time and buses are still going to the school. Buses that have not shown up to pick up students yet will be there eventually, the district says.

Update (7:53 a.m.): The City of Austin Transportation Department is controlling traffic lights on South 1st Street and Manchaca Road to give northbound drivers longer green lights.

Update (7:35 a.m.): Meantime, KUT News is confirming reports about a second incident causing delays on southbound I-35 between U.S. 183 and Rundberg Lane.

Update (7:10 a.m.): TxDOT is now waiving tolls on State Highway 45 Southeast and State Highway 130 between U.S. 183 and State Highway 71 while part of northbound I-35 is shut down this morning.

Update (6:25 a.m.): The Austin Fire Department says the overturned truck has spilled at least 700 gallons of fuel. It was carrying as much as 9,600 gallons of diesel, gasoline and ethanol. Emergency crews are trying to transfer the fuel to another trailer and have no estimate on how long that will take.

Original post (6:18 a.m.): A gas spill on northbound I-35 is expected to cause traffic delays through rush hour this morning.

Austin Police say northbound I-35 traffic including the frontage road will be diverted starting at FM 1327—that’s just north of State Highway 45.

Drivers won’t be allowed back on the highway until just north of Slaughter Lane.

flickr.com/jurvetson

Robots can perform surgerybuild machinerytrade stocks, and even write news stories. And now they can drive cars.

California legalized so-called self-driving cars yesterday. Nevada has actually issued a drivers license to a robot car. And while Texas isn't exactly stepping on the gas with regards to driverless cars, it isn't stuck in neutral either.

The only traffic-ready self-driving car is currently offered made Google – although it’s not for sale. The system uses sensors and computers to navigate through traffic. Current laws require a human to sit in the driver’s seat, in case something goes haywire with the computer.

Google says its fleet of six Toyota Priuses, an Audi TT, and a Lexus RX450 hybrid have logged more than 300,000 trouble-free miles. There have been two collisions, but the company says that neither was the robot driver’s fault.

flickr.com/rutlo

The hit-and-run death of a bicyclist on an Austin road this weekend was the 11th fatal incidence of a failure to stop and render aid this year, according to Austin Police.

The incident occurred early Sunday morning. Cyclist Robert Anthony Ramirez was on the Congress Avenue Bridge when police say he was struck by motorist Brian Adam Mahy:

On Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 4:34 a.m., Austin Police responded to an auto/bicyclist crash at 100 South Congress Avenue. The bicyclist was operating a bicycle southbound in the far right lane of the Congress Bridge. According to witnesses, a black Ford Mustang was operating at a high rate of speed in the center lane of southbound Congress Avenue. The Mustang then passed another vehicle to the right, placing him in the same lane as the bicyclist. The Mustang crashed into the bicyclist, then left the scene and did not stop to render aid to the bicyclist.

Ramirez was pronounced deceased at the scene. Mahy turned himself into police afterward, and was charged with second-degree felony intoxication manslaughter and third-degree felony failure to stop and render aid.

Congress for the New Urbanism - Central Texas chapter

Finding a parking spot in downtown Austin can sometimes be a challenge. Today, for Worldwide PARK(ing) Day, there will be two fewer spaces – but supporters say the spaces’ transformation serves a greater purpose.

Two parking spaces on Congress Avenue between Sixth Street and Seventh Street, outside the Royal Blue Grocery, have been temporarily converted into a “parklet”— where, instead of parking, people are  invited to use the space as a park-like area to enjoy lunch, read a newspaper, or even just sit and chat.

The parklet conversion and local appreciation of Worldwide PARK(ing) Day is being overseen by the Central Texas chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism, which seeks to promote smarter civic design. It notes that Worldwide PARK(ing) Day started in 2005, when a San Francisco design firm converted a single metered parking space into a temporary pocket park.

Google Maps

Update 8:10 a.m. --

Crews have stopped a gas leak at Stassney Lane and Manchaca Road but traffic is still moving slowly in the area.

One lane of eastbound Stassney remains closed as does the right turn lane from Manchaca northbound to Stassney eastbound.

The Austin Independent School District says schools in the area – including Crockett High School – are starting on time but some buses are running late because of the slow-moving traffic.

Original Story --

courtesy flickr.com/alienratt

Good morning. Central Texas winds have slowed down today as Isaac has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

Traffic Relief for Some Austin Commuters

Some northbound Austin drivers should see traffic relief starting tomorrow.

Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson John Hurt tells KUT News that the flyover from northbound MoPac to eastbound U.S. 290 will open up sometime late tonight or early tomorrow morning – before most commuters head to work.

Right now, those drivers have to go through a traffic light and down a frontage road before getting on Ben While Boulevard.

Hurt says the other part of the project – a flyover from westbound 290 to southbound MoPac – won’t be complete until around Thanksgiving.

flickr.com/45535917@N07

Nine West Nile Deaths in Dallas County

Dallas County Health and Human Services reports that nine people have died from West Nile Virus. More than 160 people have been infected.

Here in Travis County, one person has died from the virus. As of yesterday, health officials were investigating a total of eight West Nile Virus cases.

According to the Centers for Disease control, Texas has seen the most cases of West Nile Virus and the most cases of the more serious, neuroinvasive form of the disease.

City of Austin

Construction on Oltorf Street may disrupt your commute this week.

The city has closed part of Oltorf Street between South Congress Avenue and Interstate 35 to complete work on water lines. All westbound lanes are closed. One eastbound lane remains open.

The construction is scheduled to last through Friday but some closures may continue through the weekend.

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.

flickr.com/mirsasha

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, better known as CAMPO, last night approved its MoPac Improvement Project.

The project will put a managed toll lane in each direction on MoPac, from Cesar Chavez to Parmer Lane. Toll pricing would be adjusted based upon MoPac's level of congestion at the time of use. The hope is to make traffic on the entire freeway move faster.

The $200 million project was put together by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and is being paid for by state and federal funding. The agreement between the mobility authority and CAMPO also creates an infrastructure fund. Basically, $230 million in money collected from tolls on MoPac over the first 25 years of its operation will be used to pay for other transportation projects in the area.

Emily Donahue for KUT News

Fatalities from traffic crashes in Austin are up this year – especially in incidents involving pedestrians.

After the deaths of three motorcyclists and one pedestrian over the weekend, the number of people killed in Austin crashes has reached 36 on the year. Those deaths coincided with the Republic of Texas Biker Rally.

Half of this year's 36 deaths have been accidents involving pedestrians. That’s up from 41 percent (22 deaths) in 2011 and 20 percent (10 deaths) in 2010. Austin Police say 10 of the pedestrians killed this year were under the influence of drugs or alcohol and one driver was impaired. 

Nasha Lee for KUT News

The Republic of Texas Biker Rally begins tonight and the Austin Police Department expects it to affect downtown traffic.

A motorcycle procession beginning at 8 p.m. will cause partial road closures along the route from the Travis Country Exposition Center, traveling downtown along E. MLK Boulevard, Webberville Road, Oak Springs Road and west on E. 11th Street.

The parade will conclude on Congress Avenue, where full road closures will take place until 3 a.m. between Cesar Chavez and East 11th Street, and between Colorado and Brazos streets.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/rutlo

The city of Austin has cut the number of car crashes at ten of its most dangerous intersections in half. But how?

Red-light cameras that electronically photograph cars running red lights have been set up all over Austin. Over the past three years, these cameras have provided means to give almost 35,000 citations to those dangerous drivers.

Gavel photo courtesy flickr.com/safari_vacation; cattle photo courtesy Fox News 4 Dallas; Paramount photo by Teresa Vieira for KUT News

Poll Finds Most Texans Support the Death Penalty

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows that a majority of Texans support the death penalty.

The poll found 73 percent of respondents were strongly or somewhat supportive, while 21 percent were somewhat or strongly opposed. Five percent were unsure.

According to the poll, 51 percent of Texans believe the death penalty is fairly applied. Some 28 percent disagree, and 21 percent were unsure.

If a preliminary report holds true, the number of road deaths fell again in 2011. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that 32,310 people died on highways last year, down almost 2 percent from the 32,885 people who died in 2010.

The Detroit News reports:

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