Naked City

Turn, turn, turn

Block of Confusion: Navigating the Sixth and Lamar corridor could get harder under the City's new plan.
Block of Confusion: Navigating the Sixth and Lamar corridor could get harder under the City's new plan. (Photo By John Anderson)

The City Council is slated to decide today (Thursday) whether to adopt recommendations proposed by the city's Transportation, Planning and Sustainability Dept. that would significantly alter the face of downtown Austin's traffic patterns. The changes, floated around town this spring to various stakeholders, call for turning many one-way streets into two-way streets in an effort to lay the basis for a more pedestrian- and retail-friendly city.

The plan seemingly has a few issues that haven't been ironed out -- specifically, the department, referring to computer models, suggests restricting left turn traffic at both Fifth and Sixth Streets at Lamar during "peak" traffic times (morning, noon, and evening rush-hour periods). Drivers traveling north- and southbound on Lamar and wishing to turn left onto either of the main east-west thoroughfares would have to make a winding U-turn through alternate -- and already overly congested -- roadways. If, for example, you were heading south on Lamar and wanted to make a left onto Fifth, you would have to turn right on Sixth heading west, then turn left onto Baylor, heading south, before taking a left onto Fifth. Similarly, northbound Lamar traffic that wants to head west on Sixth would have to turn right onto Fifth, left onto Bowie (which dead-ends at Sixth in front of GSD&M), then take another left onto Sixth.

The city's computer models apparently have failed to consider the dreaded rush-hour fact that Baylor already backs up with southbound traffic wishing to turn onto Fifth and northbound traffic trying to get onto Sixth. Over on Bowie, the chances of turning left onto Sixth during peak traffic times is about as likely as finding a street without a pothole or a slice of natural shade on a downtown sidewalk.

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