Nueces Street in West Campus to be converted to two-way road
The City of Austin will start work this summer to convert one-way Nueces Street between 24th and Guadalupe streets into a two-way thoroughfare — part of a long-planned project that fits with the voter-approved vision to run light-rail down the Drag.
The more immediate changes include installing crosswalks and a traffic signal at Nueces and Guadalupe, just 350 feet south of a signal at Guadalupe and 29th. The traffic lights would be synchronized to prevent vehicles from bunching up.
Nueces Street, which currently runs southbound only, would be re-painted to establish one vehicle lane in each direction, a southbound bicycle lane and space for truck deliveries and street parking. Northbound cyclists are expected to take Guadalupe Street to Hemphill Park and rejoin Guadalupe north of 29th Street.
"It will be a good release valve for West Campus that's rapidly developing," said Anna Martin, an assistant director at Austin's Transportation Department (ATD). "Instead of having to go to Guadalupe Street to go north, we'll have another way for local traffic to be able to go north out of West Campus."
The Nueces conversion doesn't require seizing any private property, but the project fits within a bigger plan to reshape Guadalupe between 27th and 29th for the Orange Line light-rail route. The rail line would require razing about a dozen businesses, including 97-year-old burger joint Dirty Martin's.
Austin voters authorized the Nueces Street changes when they approved a $720 million mobility bond in 2016 that included almost $20 million for improvements to the Guadalupe Street area.
Some nearby residents are worried making Nueces a two-way street, coupled with the possibility of traffic being banned from the Drag as part of the light-rail plans, could force large volumes of car and truck traffic onto Nueces.
"Trading Guadalupe safety for Nueces danger is not a solution that works," said Mike McHone with the neighborhood association University Area Partners. He said he's also concerned the I-35 expansion, planned to start in late 2025, will push even more north-south traffic into the already congested area as people seek alternate routes to avoid construction.
McHone is advocating for the Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) — the local government corporation created to oversee light-rail construction — to consider burying the Orange Line under Guadalupe Street, a proposal ATP officials have argued is too costly and impractical.
"The transit system would be great for safety if we didn't increase the hazard anywhere else," McHone said.
Farther south, some neighbors are worried about the longer-term possibility of San Antonio Street being converted to a two-way road. ATD's Martin said the prospect has been discussed, with no recommendations made.
"There's an awful lot of traffic that comes up and down this street just as a one-way street," said Diane Zbasnik, the parish administrator for St. Austin's Catholic Church at San Antonio Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. St. Austin's is building a 29-story tower at 1911 San Antonio for student housing.
"The traffic's bad already. To add traffic to this is going to make it impossible to get up and down San Antonio," Zbasnik said.
ATD heard the same concern before each of its recent conversions of streets from one-way to two-way, but the department says the safety and mobility problems never materialized.
Recent one-way to two-way conversions include:
- 2017: East Fifth Street between Brazos and I-35
- 2018: Colorado Street between Cesar Chavez and Ninth
- 2019: 16th Street between San Antonio and Colorado
"We think [Nueces] will function very well as a two-way street in this segment," ATD's Martin said.
Local transportation and transit officials expect to conduct a more in-depth analysis of how the Orange Line plans, including the Nueces reconfiguration, could affect traffic around the Drag. An online public meeting about it is planned for June 14.