Austin Community: Dangerous Roads
- Sunday, November 4, 2012
- Posted by: lola2014
- Category: Adult Drivers
Austin Community: Dangerous Roads & Intersections
For many Austin residents, the simple act of getting to-and-from work has become increasingly frustrating and hazardous over the past 10 years. As an Austin resident myself, I often feel as if I’m driving around a major metropolis like Dallas or Los Angeles rather than what used to be considered a quaint and quiet Central Texas city. I guess that’s the problem: Austin ain’t so quaint (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) anymore!
More and more outsiders have found out what the rest of us already know: Austin is a great place to live. This revelation has led to an unprecedented boon in Austin, making it one of the most thriving economies and culturally rich communities in the great State of Texas – if not the entire United States.
Unfortunately, with the good always comes the bad, and the “bad” in this case are the aging roadways intersecting our city and its older neighborhoods. Sure, the City of Austin is doing everything it can to keep up with the bulging gridlock oozing across our major interstates and highways, but what about the smaller streets and roads that many of us have to use every single day just to get to the grocery store or the post office?
With an occupancy rate of 95%, many Austin neighborhoods have swollen to capacity — more families, more kids, more bicyclists, and more cars on the road. Aside from downtown, where you can throw a rock in any direction and hit new construction, nowhere is this explosion of growth more evident than in the Central Austin neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Rosedale, Shoalmont and Allandale. Unlike outlying areas like Pflugerville and Round Rock where new homes and new roads are being built to support the growing population, these older and more established neighborhoods have no more room for new roadway construction. And what do you do when you can’t build out? You build up! New condos and stylish apartment complexes are popping up along Burnet Road between 2222 and 45th Street – more families, more kids, more bicyclists, and more cars on the road.
2222 & Burnet
I live East of Mopac, along 2222, which is also known as Koenig Lane and Allandale Road. The surrounding neighborhood, a former diary pastureland, was built in the 1950’s and is one of the more popular neighborhoods in Austin due to its large wooded lots and excellent schools. 2222 is probably the most traversed East-West thoroughfare in this area because it connects Mopac and Interstate 35. The section of 2222 that is particularly dangerous runs Eastbound, between Mopac and Lamar. While the posted speed limit along this narrow and winding stretch of road is a reasonable 35 miles per hour, most drivers exiting Mopac drive at speeds closer to 55 miles per hour. Despite having the Department of Public Safety located less than a mile away, there is little to no traffic enforcement along 2222, making this a highly dangerous road.
Speeding vehicles have on more than one occasion clipped other cars while trying to maintain lane position at high speed or lost control entirely and driven into the back yard of one of the homes lining the street. There is also no left turn lane so drivers approaching a stopped vehicle making a left turn will suddenly speed up or slow down and cut off drivers in the adjacent lane so as not to get stuck behind the turning vehicle. This makes the experience of driving on 2222 more like racing at the Indy 500 than making a short commute to the grocery store.
Nowhere is this danger and congestion more evident than at the intersection of 2222 and Burnet, where the local HEB grocery store is located. Eastbound traffic comes to a grinding halt every day during rush hour and lunch time, often piling up at the traffic light for three or four blocks. The reason for this congestion is two-fold: first, people exiting the grocery store parking lot will inch across the two eastbound lanes in order to reach the left turn lane onto northbound Burnet or to make a left turn onto westbound 2222. This presents a highly dangerous situation for oncoming traffic as they oftentimes cannot see the creeping vehicle as it emerges from behind a stopped bus or other large vehicle and cuts across traffic. I have personally seen one accident and several near accidents directly related to these inconsiderate and oblivious drivers exiting the grocery store parking lot and cutting off oncoming traffic.
The solution? Post “No Left Turn” signs at both of the grocery store parking lot exits along 2222 and add some type of plastic barrier to the left turn lane onto Burnet that will prevent the same drivers from being able to enter the turn lane from the grocery store parking lot exit.
The second problem is that the left turn lane onto Burnet is too short. There are only two Eastbound lanes along 2222 so when the left turn lane at Burnet becomes full, the overflow blocks one of the lanes and leaves only one remaining Eastbound lane. This, along with the fact that there is a bus stop at the same intersection and vehicles entering and exiting the grocery store parking lot, causes daily gridlock. The solution? Extend the length of the left turn lane or, better yet, add another turn lane (which would require expansion of the road).
While new construction may not be feasible given the relatively narrow constraints of this corridor, the City could certainly amp-up Police enforcement along 2222 to cut down on speeding and add a few “No left turn” signs to cut down on roadway congestion. With new condos and restaurants popping up every day along Burnet Road, this problem is going to continue to get significantly worse unless the City does something soon.
2222 & Lamar
Ironically, the Texas Department of Public Safety is located smack-dab in the middle of the second most dangerous intersection in this area. Making an unprotected left turn from 2222 onto northbound Lamar requires equal parts skill, guts and plain old luck. For those of you who have made this hair-raising left turn, you know that it is difficult if not impossible to see oncoming traffic beyond the two lines of vehicles in the opposite westbound left turn lanes. You literally have to count the seconds between the time you see a car and the time it disappears behind the line of turning westbound traffic in order to calculate whether it’s safe to make your turn. If you miscalculate that gap, as many drivers have, WHAM! You’re eating the grill of an oncoming car or truck.
Remember: the posted speed limit here is 35 miles per hour but westbound traffic rounding that corner on 2222 is often traveling closer to 45 or 50 miles per hour by the time they reach the intersection.
The solution? Protected left turns only. The city has put protected left turns at far less dangerous intersections such as Burnet and Braker so why not add one here and prevent the likelihood of accidents, injury and death from an intersection that was not designed to accommodate so much traffic?
There are, I am sure, many other dangerous roads and intersections in Austin that I have failed to cover in this article. Despite its growing size, Austin is still a small community and each member of this community has a responsibility to report on things that may present a danger to the safety and well being of others in the community. That is the objective of this article: to raise awareness about what I consider to be a largely unrecognized danger in my community. A danger that could be eliminated through some simple and logical action by our elected officials. If you know of a road or intersection that you believe is dangerous, tell us about it here so that we can all read about them and do something about it!
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