The Austin Chronicle

May the Circle Be Unbroken

By Katherine Gregor, March 2, 2007, News

An official vote of confidence for the Heritage Neighborhood Association's efforts to get a traffic circle at 31st and West Avenue came from the Urban Transportation Commission on Feb. 20. The UTC called a special meeting to hear the matter, after reading in the Chronicle about the conflict between HNA – which wants the circle for safety reasons and has $30,000 in hand to build it, donated by Guadalupe 31 developer Joe Lamy – and the city – which had declined to build the circle, offering speed cushions or sidewalks instead.

UTC member Patrick Goetz expressed surprise that neither public works nor the neighborhood association had sent the matter to the commission for review, which he said provides "an official forum in which the public can communicate its concerns about transportation issues." Goetz said that prior to the meeting he did background research into national data on traffic circles and found that the recommendation and reasons cited by public works and the city manager's office were not consistent with national data and best practices, which support traffic circles. For example, while the city claimed a 30- to 60-second delay in emergency-response time, a comprehensive study by the city of Portland found an insignificant 10.7-second delay, for longer fire trucks than Austin uses.

At the special meeting, the commission heard both from neighborhood representatives and from city staff, including Director of Public Works Sondra Creighton. According to Goetz and HNA representative Jolene Kiolbassa, Creighton stated that the city was not against traffic circles per se; she also said the city was open to developer-funded traffic mitigation. UTC then passed a resolution in support of the neighborhood association's request for the traffic circle and sent the issue to council.

For more on this, see "Developing Stories," Jan. 19.

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