A Bumper-to-Bumper Crop of MoPac Proposals
Not everyone's happy with this cornucopia
Recent public forums have given the public a glimpse of a whole menu of changes being considered under the MoPac Improvement Project, a joint mission of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, the Texas Department of Transportation, the city of Austin, and Capital Metro. And some local transportation advocates are already saying the plan doesn't give enough consideration to multimodal options.
An array of detailed maps and videos greeted visitors to the forums earlier this month at Murchison and O. Henry middle schools. Among the ideas under consideration for the frequently clogged Parmer Lane-to-Downtown section of the highway:
• adding one high-occupancy vehicle lane in each direction,
• adding one express lane in each direction (possibly with tolls that vary according to demand),
• adding one general purpose lane in each direction,
• adding multiple lanes (both general purpose and express),
• plus the federally required "no build" option.
The anti-toll road contingent is adding its voice to the mix, of course. Mary Anderson of Texans Against Tolls passed out fliers to attendees of one forum, which listed possible problems with the project. "The proposed changes will make MoPac, not IH-35, the primary thoroughfare through Austin," the sheet read. "MoPac is being used to carry traffic that TxDOT could shift to IH-35. TxDOT is asking neighborhoods along MoPac to tolerate an interstate thoroughfare that they will pay tolls on."
Notably absent from the proceedings was any mention of bicycling infrastructure. This would be a continuation of MoPac's current relationship with bicyclists: At almost every entrance to Loop 1, as the highway is also known, are signs showing that bicycles are banned. The League of Bicycling Voters has called for bikes to be added to the plan in three ways: a nonstop, off-street bicycle path and pedestrian path along the entire length of the improvement area; complete and improved bike and pedestrian connectivity for all crossings of MoPac; and improvement of the Johnson Creek Greenbelt trail.
The Johnson Creek trail offers a glimpse of what a complete bike facility could look like – it runs under and adjacent to MoPac beginning near Austin High School and runs north where it peters out at Enfield Road with poor connectivity to other official Austin bike routes.
"It's understandable that much of the focus would be on cars, but it seems extremely shortsighted and out of step with the stated goals of multi-modal transportation that there is no mention of bicycle or pedestrian accommodations," the LOBV said in a release.