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Old 12-22-2006, 12:00 AM
 
980 posts, read 2,701,026 times
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Ok, maybe I'm just crazy, but what the heck is the city/state thinking with the Austin freeway system? We have some huge problems in our existing system, yet instead of even making an attempt at fixing them, they decided to build a couple of mega tolls roads.

Can someone who is more tuned in with city planning, please promise me that there is a plan to fix the major problems on our preexisting highways?

For example:

Every single time I have to connect from 35 South to 183 North or 183 North to 35 North, I'm stunned at how one actually has to EXIT the highway and go through traffic lights to connect to the other intersecting highway. This seems like a no-brainer.

The 35 upper/lower deck fiasco. I don't think I really need to elaborate on this one.

183 from 35 to the airport. Um, can we finish turning this into a freeway at some point? Now that I've seen how quickly the state can build a toll road, I'm no longer giving them a break on the timetable for getting this thing done. In fact, it looks like they've stopped working on this project alltogether.

I know I'm just scratching the surface here, but with all the growth Austin has had in the last few years, the preexisting problems are bound to get worse and worse. Let's hope something is finally done about them.
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Old 12-22-2006, 01:38 AM
 
Location: Katy, TX
19 posts, read 133,072 times
Reputation: 21
The entire problem with Austin is with the initial infrastructure that was planned back in the 60s. I'm not sure why, but they never really included any east-west growth in their plans. Obviously, Austin is desperate for east-west freeways...but it's too late to really implement it in the areas which need it most.

Also, Austin didn't really start booming until the early 90s. Even if there had been a logical infrastructure in place, it would have been overburdened by the rate of growth. I, like pretty much everyone else, have no idea what Austin will ever do (if anything) about their huge transportation problems. I have to agree that it makes absolutely no sense that you have to exit the highway and sit through traffic lights to get back on to 183/35, though lol
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Old 12-22-2006, 08:39 AM
Status: "Retired and happy about it" (set 19 hours ago)
 
Location: WA
5,539 posts, read 22,660,809 times
Reputation: 6293
Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinGuy View Post
...yet instead of even making an attempt at fixing them, they decided to build a couple of mega tolls roads.
That is not just Austin, it is across the state. Texas has not adequately planned for growth lacking both master plans and funding mechanisms so now it appears the strategy is to relieve congested areas with toll roads. One of many failures of state government.
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Old 12-22-2006, 03:14 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
1,234 posts, read 3,883,124 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdelena View Post
That is not just Austin, it is across the state. Texas has not adequately planned for growth lacking both master plans and funding mechanisms so now it appears the strategy is to relieve congested areas with toll roads. One of many failures of state government.
The other metropolitan areas have nowhere near the problems that Austin has, though. Houston and Dallas actually have a lot more well-planned transportation infrastructure.

To answer the original question, I'm definitely familiar with city planning in Austin so I will give you the short version (I could write all day about this issue):

1. Growth Was Not Wanted: Back in the day, the powers that be wanted to protect the Austin they loved and did not want it to become overgrown. The city's infrastructure was designed for a population about 1/3 of what it is now, and they didn't want it to ever be any larger than that. I'm not sure I can blame them... Austin was a hidden jewel: natural beauty, excellent quality of life and affordable housing everywhere.

2. Growth Happened and Was Resisted: The mentality was that "If we don't build it, they won't come." Those in charge of Austin's development decided that they would discourage growth by not expanding the infrastructure. They thought that developers would surely look elsewhere if there were no suitable areas to build new housing. They were wrong....

3. Resistance Was Futile: The growth happened anyway. Suddenly the farm roads were clogged with S.U.V.s driven by soccer moms named "Buffy", the environmentally sensitive areas where being paved over, I-35 (which is still the same as it was in the 50's) was completely clogged. There was a scramble to add more transportation options, but by the time it happened, it was too late. The city has grown up around the ailing transportation infrastructure and it is downright impossible to expand in many places.

4. City Planners Really Tried: I feel sorry for anyone who is a city planner in Austin. These poor folks must drink heavily just to get through the day. You see, there were/are many talented folks in the planning department that came up with great ways to accommodate the growth, all of which were completely shot down by the "liberal and progressive" citizens:

- Road Expansion: Studies have shown that expanding roads actually only makes traffic worse, but they though maybe it was worth trying. When it came to the reality of acquiring land for the larger right of way and construction noise/inconvenience, though, the neighborhood associations would storm city hall and get it shut down.

- Public Transportation: Remember the Light Rail proposal back in 2000? That was a GREAT idea and it would've been up and running right now had it been started, but it was voted down by the citizens as well. Yes, we do have the commuter train plan but it is going to be a failure. People do not understand that it is NOT a light rail system. It is going to just use existing lines and it not going to go anywhere useful. There is one stop near downtown that is nowhere near where anyone works. What does that mean? That means they'll have to get on a BUS to get to where they need to go anyway. The original plan was to have actual trains running all over downtown, UT, etc. THAT would have been useful.

- High-Density Development: This is the latest tactic and it is being met with a lot of opposition, but it seems to be more successful than the others. The idea is to redevelop lower-density areas of the central city with highrise condos, etc. (you can see lots of this happening in downtown and all around it right now) H.D. development also calls for limiting suburban sprawl and building the city around pedestrians/cyclists and public transportation as opposed to giant S.U.V.s and trucks. "Wait... what?!?! I have to WALK?!?! I have to see a highrise building near my neighborhood?!?!?! That's it!!! The neighborhood association is getting together and we're going to protest this until the city stops with these silly ideas!!"

You see, the major difference between Austin and most other major cities (even in Texas) is that the city government runs other cities, while the neighborhood associations run Austin. I have never seen these groups have so much power and influence in my entire life like they do here. The city government bends over backwards for them on every single issue, no matter what it is. It's not like Houston where the government will just bulldoze right over your house if you don't get out of the way.



A bit long, I know, but this is a major sore spot with me. You can only go so far to give everyone what they want before it gets to the point where it's actually detrimental to the well-being of the whole.
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Old 11-02-2009, 05:48 PM
 
804 posts, read 1,800,027 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jread View Post

1. Growth Was Not Wanted

2. Growth Happened and Was Resisted

3. Resistance Was Futile

4. City Planners Really Tried
Excellent points jread. Southwestern cities have been growing for decades. Unfortunately the people who saw this pattern long ago are the ones now profiting heavily at citizens' expense. The ones who didn't were in for a major shock.

Texas Constructs U.S. Border Wall To Keep Out Unwanted Americans | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

As for the trucks, one could make the same comparison between rural and urban drivers anywhere. Rural dwellers drive trucks out of necessity; I know this from growing up in a farming area. Urban dwellers buy them to plow traffic and make a show; I know this from hearing some brag about it.

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Old 11-02-2009, 06:01 PM
 
Location: Austin TX
9,072 posts, read 4,689,498 times
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jread hit the nail right on the head. Austin planners felt that limiting the infrastructure would limit growth. Oopsie! That plan failed, the city grew tremendously, decades passed, land got sucked up by development, and it's now all but impossible to go back to the drawing board and fix what's wrong.

Nomore07's link to The Onion is a hilarious read for anyone who has experienced firsthand the prejudice that many Texans hold toward outsiders ... LOL!
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Old 11-02-2009, 06:30 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
16,791 posts, read 43,926,251 times
Reputation: 9422
Quote:
Originally Posted by nomore07 View Post
Excellent points jread. Southwestern cities have been growing for decades. Unfortunately the people who saw this pattern long ago are the ones now profiting heavily at citizens' expense. The ones who didn't were in for a major shock.

Texas Constructs U.S. Border Wall To Keep Out Unwanted Americans | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

As for the trucks, one could make the same comparison between rural and urban drivers anywhere. Rural dwellers drive trucks out of necessity; I know this from growing up in a farming area. Urban dwellers buy them to plow traffic and make a show; I know this from hearing some brag about it.

This is a new record for necroposting on this forum. Dec. 2006! But I have to admit the issues are still relevant today!
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Old 11-02-2009, 09:46 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
8,703 posts, read 17,361,500 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nor Cal Wahine View Post
jread hit the nail right on the head. Austin planners felt that limiting the infrastructure would limit growth. Oopsie! That plan failed, the city grew tremendously, decades passed, land got sucked up by development, and it's now all but impossible to go back to the drawing board and fix what's wrong.
Did it really fail, though? Most of those city planners lived in central Austin, and probably still do. I'd say it pretty much worked out for them. Do you think the character of the central neighborhoods and downtown would be like it is now if we had the highway system (loop, bigger loop) of say San Antonio, Dallas or Houston? Look at where the sprawl in Austin is right now. It's mostly along the one "real" highway, and growing along the tollways (mostly outside the city limits). Where would it be if we had roads like SA?

My thought is, you can always build more roads, but you can't un-build them, especially when highway communities have already occurred along them.

True, it might be costlier the longer you wait, but it might also be much better quality -- take the Central Expressway rebuild in Dallas.

I guess my feeling is this: I'd rather have the traffic (which truly isn't that bad, especially compared to bigger cities) than lose the character of central Austin to ring after ring of dead suburbs.
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:25 PM
 
Location: 78731
629 posts, read 1,484,705 times
Reputation: 347
Quote:
Originally Posted by jread View Post
The city has grown up around the ailing transportation infrastructure and it is downright impossible to expand in many places.
In relation to I-35, TxDOT could easily add 2 lanes to each direction if they got rid of the frontage roads around downtown and south-central. It's an option that was long ago given about 5 minutes of serious consideration, but it would cost lots of money, cause lots of headaches in the short term, anger some business interests, and they couldn't find a way to effectively toll the expansion.

We could do it, but its one of those things that you ignore and push back (like my dental appointment I was supposed to have last week) hoping someone else will have to deal with the consequences in a future where you don't have any responsibilities.
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Old 11-04-2009, 03:36 PM
 
6,833 posts, read 7,766,814 times
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I have said it before, and I'll say it again - access roads are one of the most moronic things I have ever encountered. It makes no sense to me to have to exit a freeway and sit through some stoplights before turning onto another freeway (like the I-35 / 183 example you gave). Hey, here's an idea: how about if the exit for 183 (or any other street) actually put you on 183. I know it's crazy, but it just might work.

It would also eliminate exiting a freeway and having to cross 3-4 lanes of traffic in order to turn right.
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