Owners concerned about implications of updates to Austin’s strategic mobility plan

Monday March 14th, 2022 by Kali Bramble

The city’s transportation department has begun updating Austin’s strategic mobility plan for the first time since His creation in 2019, but not before running into some issues in community feedback.

“I think one of the problems we have is that the street-level classifications aren’t clear on what they mean in a real world application,” said Urban Transport Commission Chairman Mario Champion. , during the meeting of the mobility committee of the city council on Thursday. “Part of it comes down to phrasing, especially undefined words like ‘intensive development’ and ‘ideal cross-section’, which result in aspirations rather than theories. People fear there will be 20 feet removed from their yards and trees downed, when financially and in terms of priorities this is very unlikely.

Staff told the Mobility Committee that the revamped plan would take into account recent upgrades to the city’s transportation design standards, as well as new infrastructure projects such as Project Connect. The briefing followed a public participation survey which revealed great concern on the part of the community regarding potential changes to the right-of-way of residential streets.

“As we know, the city was built over decades using old standards,” said Department of Transportation Director Robert Spillar. “And we now know more than ever what is needed to allocate space within the right-of-way to our most vulnerable users in order to achieve our vision zero, climate and multimodal transportation goals.”

The plan is a two-part document. The first part is devoted to the overall policies guiding future transport initiatives. The latest revision would add three new policies to this list, including one supporting increased pedestrian-oriented community street spaces, and two related to improving climate resilience and emergency preparedness measures.

More technical is ASMP’s Road Network Plan, a comprehensive map outlining the ideal design standards for Austin’s roads. The overhaul uses a street-level classification system borrowed from the city’s 2021 update Transportation Criteria Manualclassifying roads from level 1 (residential, high land access) to level 5 (highway, highest mobility capability).

The most controversial of these is the reclassification on the map of a number of residential streets from Tier 1 to Tier 2, an upgrade that comes with a host of design standards, including an increase in setbacks , sidewalks and bike paths. Homeowners are concerned that such changes will spur right-of-way acquisitions that could encroach on their properties and lead to increased traffic in their neighborhoods.

“The prospective designation of massive right-of-way changes is not about updating the transportation plan,” said District 7 resident Janis Reinken. in land use planning and zoning policies. This approach raises concerns similar to those protested by landlords regarding CodeNEXT.”

City workers were quick to assure landlords that the changes would not be drastic. “We would like to reiterate that the road network plan is for right-of-way assignment, not right-of-way acquisition,” Spillar said. “This means that only when major commercial or multi-family redevelopment occurs along a thoroughfare will it give us the opportunity to ensure the street reflects mobility needs.”

“Although updates to the road network plan indicate an expanded right-of-way for many streets, this does not mean that changes are imminent,” continued Cole Kitten, director of the transportation division. “Dedication is only triggered for new development or extensive redevelopment, which means single-family homes going through the planning permission process do not require a new right-of-way dedication.”

Nonetheless, staff members plan to reassess road network revisions in response to these concerns. Topping the list of reconsiderations are Payne Avenue, Edgemont Drive, Harris Boulevard, Redd Street and Airport Boulevard.

Next, the team behind the ASMP update will continue its rounds with relevant city committees, including consultations with the Cycling Advisory Council and Zoning and Plateau Commission in the coming months. . Pending approval, staffers hope to appear before City Council with revisions finalized in late May.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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