Transportation

California Rail Map, Alfred Twu

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell has promised a public vote on an urban rail system before he leaves office. Considering Austin was just ranked the fourth worst U.S. city for traffic congestion, that news could make for a lot of happy commuters.

Meanwhile, a California group envisions a national high-speed rail system that could transport a person from any major city to another in hours. And this vision has Austin as major train connection hub.

Ihwa Cheng/KUT News

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport saw more passengers last year than it ever has before. About 9.4 million people departed from or arrived to the airport in 2012. That was a four percent increase from 2011.

ABIA added more non-stop flights last year, including service to Washington D.C., Portland, and Philadelphia. And 200,000 people came through for the Formula One race in November.

But officials say they don’t expect to see the same gains in 2013. 

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.

flickr.com/rutlo

Good morning. The National Weather Service says sunny and warm weather is the order of the day, with expected highs in the mid-70s.

Lead Story: Ten people have died in traffic accidents in Austin so far this year. That’s twice as many as this time last year.

The city has launched a survey as part of an effort to reverse that trend, looking for feedback on how to make Austin safer for cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians. You can find the survey on the city’s website.

KUT News

State lawmakers gathered Tuesday at the Capitol in support of a bill that would outlaw texting while driving. 

Both Senate Bill 28 and House Bill 63 would ban all forms of cell phone use while driving a vehicle—including texting, emailing and talking. This is the second attempt at a texting ban for both State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and State Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland). Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the last attempt in 2011

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.

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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.


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.

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.


The South Austin exchange where the flyover opened. View Larger Map

Some commuters may have had an easier commute this morning.

The flyover connecting westbound 290 to southbound Mopac opened this morning, with workers uncovering signage and removing traffic barriers around 8 a.m.

At least two people are dead and dozens injured in a 100-vehicle pileup on Interstate 10 in southeast Texas that's being blamed on early morning fog on Thanksgiving Day.

KFDM TV reports that the dead included a man and a woman in a Chevy Suburban that was crushed by a tractor trailer. State troopers told the TV station that between 80 and 120 people were hurt; they were taken to hospitals in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Winnie. The crash occurred southwest of Beaumont, 80 miles east of Houston.

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-Bergstrom International Airport expects about 21,800 people will fly out today. That's far more than this year's Austin City Limits Festival exodus (some 18,000 people on Oct. 15).

ABIA processed more than 9,000 passengers between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. That’s about 3,700 more people than during that same period (actually 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.) last week.

To help with increased demand, airlines added seven flights and sent bigger planes to Austin, adding a total of more than 2,500 seats. Chartered flights included 747 and 767 jets.

The airport expects to stay busy all week as F1 fans continue to fly out and holiday travel begins.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Almost 83,000 people traveled to the Circuit of the Americas track in southeastern Travis County today to watch German driver Sebastian Vettel seize the pole position for Sunday’s Grand Prix. And while the track has received positive reviews, transportation to and from it was not without a few bumps in the road.

“The track is fantastic. The transportation leaves something to be desired,” said Hal Merchant, who travelled from the Reno, Nevada area with his girlfriend Judy Ashton. “The bus ride’s 30 minutes, but you spend an hour standing in line.”

Merchant said he wished he could have parked out at the track, and drove half the way there before being turned back. He said he lacked clear information about where to find a parking garage. Circuit of the America’s website lists shuttle pick-up points, but doesn’t offer details on where to park your car.

courtesy SH 130 Concession Co.

It's been almost three weeks since the new stretch of State Highway 130 opened on Oct. 24. Now the temporary freeway is officially a tollway. And that's how it's going to stay, for the next 50 years or so.

The new segments of SH-130, which run just south of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Seguin, were free to motorists until Nov. 11. Now the the toll rate has been set at $0.15 per mile for passenger vehicles with TxTag service. Vehicles without a TxTag can also use the tollway, and will be billed through a pay-by-mail service.

"With this new road, motorists can travel 90 miles of toll road and bypass I-35 congestion between Seguin and Georgetown for about $12," the Texas Department of Transportation says in a press release.

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

Circuit of the Americas

The first lap around the Formula One racetrack was done on foot: over 5,000 people participated in Saturday’s Formula Run, a 3.4-mile race coordinated by the Circuit of the Americas and RunTex. Austinite Wes Johnson was the first to cross the finish line.

The race was also the first chance for the public to view the newly minted, $400 million track.

But last minute registrars and a dense fog that morning, coupled with traffic jams at the intersection of SH 130 and FM 812, forced organizers to push back the start time of the race by forty minutes. Organizers said that Saturday’s event was not an indicator of the type of traffic congestion that will occur during the weekend of the race.


View Street Closures for Nov. 2-4 in a larger map

A slew of events this weekend will make navigating downtown Austin a bit more challenging than usual.

The seventh annual Fun Fun Fun Fest is already underway at Auditorium Shores. Bouldin Avenue and South Fifth Street/Dawson Road are open to residents only. No festival parking is allowed in Bouldin Creek neighborhood.

Many more street closures are in effect Sunday, when the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K launches. East 18th Street from Congress Avenue to San Jacinto Boulevard and Brazos Street from MLK Jr. Boulevard to East 17th Street are first to close, at 6 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3.

Several more full and partial closures are in effect Sunday, as illustrated in the map above. Here’s a rundown of the partial closures:

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