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.

Marble Falls EDC/Texas Highways

The Texas Department of Transportation is planning to demolish an old bridge over the Colorado River in Marble Falls.

The span will be replaced by a new one over Lake Marble Falls in that area.

flickr.com/mirsasha

It’s no secret that traffic is terrible in Austin. A study from Texas A&M ranked the area 17th worst in the nation – finding the average driver here spent 44 hours of their life stuck in traffic in 2011. 

Daniel Reese

The Texas Department of Public Safety is increasing patrols March 8-17 for Spring Break.

More DPS troopers will be on the roads watching for speeders, seat belt violations and especially drunk drivers.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the across-the-board spending cuts that went into effect on Friday are already causing headaches at the nation's airports.

"Now that we are having to reduce or eliminate basically overtime both for TSA and for customs, now that we have instituted a hiring freeze... we will begin today sending out furlough notices," Napolitano said, according to Politico.

Texas Department of Transportation

Change is on the way for a stretch of State Highway 71 in Southeast Austin.

The Texas Department of Transportation is moving ahead with plans to build tolled express lanes from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport east to the SH 130 toll road.

Rachel Wilcox

Capital Metro proposing a new bus route to the Circle C and Western Oaks neighborhoods of Southwest Austin. The rush-hour route would run parallel to MoPac and provide service to downtown and University of Texas areas.

If adopted, the new route would be called the "111 South MoPac Flyer" and would begin service on June 9.

It’s just one of several service changes being considered by CapMetro. The public transit agency has scheduled several public meetings on the proposals. The first one is Tuesday, March 5 at noon. That meeting will also be streamed online. 

flickr.com/atmtx

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.

flickr.com/gratapictures

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.

twitter.com/chrisperezsr

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.” 

Headed to the Airport? Get There Early

Dec 21, 2012
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. 

YouTube

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.


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.

courtesy Heyride

Heyride is a smartphone app that lets people find and offer rides to strangers for money. If that sounds kind of like a taxi service to you, the City of Austin agrees.

Last month, the city sent a cease and desist order to the Austin-based startup.

The city regulates for-hire transportation, doing criminal background checks on drivers and making sure vehicles are safe. But Heyride drivers aren’t going through that permitting and inspection process.

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.

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