DOWNTOWN AUSTIN: East Fifth is now two-way for a stretch. Here’s why.


City turns stretch of Fifth Street between Brazos Street and Interstate 35 to two-way.

Move is intended to help traffic flow when Sixth Street is closed for festivals and other events.

Don’t freak out when you see oncoming traffic on East Fifth Street.

City crews recently converted a stretch of the street, from Brazos Street to Interstate 35, to two-way. Here are five things to know about the change.

1. What’s there now: That segment of East Fifth, once eastbound only, now has two eastbound lanes and one westbound lane. The rest of Fifth, from Brazos to MoPac Boulevard, remains eastbound only.

2. The goal is to improve traffic: Now drivers have another westbound option when East Sixth Street is closed for weekend revelry and other festivities.

3. And there’s another consideration: At some point in the not too distant future, drivers will lose a section of the westbound lane on East Fourth Street. Capital Metro plans to expand its downtown MetroRail station and create a pedestrian plaza between Trinity and Red River streets, though no construction date has been set.

4. Here’s the trade-off: By losing an eastbound lane, drivers on East Fifth will see a few seconds added to their afternoon commute, a city traffic analysis found. The eventual loss of the westbound lane on East Fourth will set those drivers back about two minutes, the study found. But adding the westbound lane on East Fifth will dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, the downtown gridlock that currently happens during East Sixth closures, the analysis said.

5. What did the East Fifth conversion cost? Final figures weren’t available Tuesday, but the City Council approved up to $500,000 for the project back in May, a cost that includes installing new signals, updating signs and re-striping the street, among other expenses.

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