Safety first, or nearly so.
Construction should begin by September, city officials say, on extensive changes to the sidewalks and traffic lanes at the intersection of South Pleasant Valley Road and Elmont Drive, to be followed later in the fall by similar work at the Slaughter Lane/South First Street and South Congress Avenue/Oltorf Street intersections.
The Austin City Council Thursday will consider a $3 million contract with Muniz Concrete & Contracting to do the three jobs.
The projects are a part of the city’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to significantly reduce the number of Austin traffic fatalities, particularly those involving pedestrians and cyclists. The city, as part of a Vision Zero action plan released last year, has a list of 28 major intersections that are especially problematic, based on both traffic incident frequency and severity of injuries in those events.
The work will also be among the earliest dirt-turning under the city’s $720 million, eight-year transportation bond program, which voters approved in November. That diverse package of projects included $15 million for “fatality reduction” projects.
That $15 million should be enough to get 15 to 18 of those intersection projects done, said Upal Barua, the project manager for the city’s transportation safety improvement program. The South Pleasant Valley project will kick off that effort.
The intersection is particularly tough for pedestrians, Barua told the Statesman. Sidewalks in several cases stop several feet short of the curb lines there, and there are drainage ditches or culverts on all four sides of the intersection. Busy Pleasant Valley, meanwhile, has just four lanes there, forcing briskly moving traffic to pull up behind left-turners.
The plan, Barua said, is to widen the sidewalks, going back at least a couple of hundred yards in each direction, into “shared use paths” and extend them to the curb lines. A southbound left-turn lane would be added, and south of the intersection, a continuous left-turn lane will run from the intersection to near an H-E-B store’s entrance. At that point, it will meet an existing left-turn lane, meaning that there would be five lanes all the way from Elmont to East Riverside Drive.
Detailed design plans aren’t ready yet for the Slaughter Lane and South Congress projects, Barua said, “but the other two aren’t far behind.” Cheyenne Krause, a spokeswoman for the city Transportation Department, said the other two projects should begin by late in the fall.