NCINC2 Letter to TxDOT re the Mobility35 Capital Area Improvement Plan, 26 May 2015

26 May 2015

Dear Ms. Lorenzini and Messrs. Webber, Malatek, and McCoy,

On July 26, 2014 the North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition 2 (NCINC2) delivered a letter to TxDOT outlining a series of responses to the Mobility35 Capital Area Improvement Plan on behalf of our constituent neighborhoods. In this letter, we voiced our broad-based positions regarding the Mobility35 Segment 4 impacts on neighborhood accessibility and connectivity, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and safety, ramp access to and from IH35, development projections for the corridor, alternate routes and traffic studies, future rail compatibility and air quality and noise pollution. This letter was acknowledged by TxDOT representatives but we have to date received no response regarding our positions.

These are positions we expect to inform the Mobility35 plans throughout the entire process, reflecting the careful consideration of a range of neighborhood stakeholders. We continue to maintain specific concerns regarding the Mobility35 plans and the process through which stakeholder input is being delivered and duly considered. We are writing to share some of those specific concerns here and to request that TxDOT representatives meet with our membership at the earliest possible convenience to discuss these concerns in greater detail:

  • Presently there are recommendations to the Austin Transportation Department that a two-way bicycle lane be installed and parking removed on the north side of Manor Road from its intersection with Chicon to IH35 to separate the bicycle traffic from other vehicular traffic and to improve safety. Does this bicycle lane factor into TxDOT plans for the rebuilt bridge and intersection at Manor and IH35?
  • The Blackland Neighborhood Association in particular is concerned that the current pedestrian signals at Manor Road crossing IH35 are poorly situated and timed to almost force people to violate the law to cross. Have the TxDOT engineers considered the high volume of bicycle and pedestrian use of the intersection and, if so, what treatments are recommended? How will TxDOT and the City of Austin coordinate on this action?
  • We have also heard conflicting information concerning right turns on the northbound frontage road at Manor Road and I-35. Earlier, we understood that right turns would not be allowed; later we heard they would. What is the current recommendation for right turns off the northbound frontage road at the Manor Road/I-35 intersection?
  • The intersection of MLK Boulevard at IH35 is a major traffic corridor into the UT Campus and the Medical Complex. Rapid bus lines have been planned for MLK for some time; are these buses being considered in TxDOT plans and what are the current plans for this intersection?
  • The Cherrywood Neighborhood Association Steering Committee has previously requested traffic impact studies (including projected traffic counts) on the city street grid immediately adjacent to and east of IH35 from MLK to Airport Boulevard with and without the proposed northbound lower deck exit ramp just north of 32nd Street for the purpose of measuring the ramp’s effects on 38 ½ Street. Will TxDOT provide those comparative traffic studies?
  • The Delwood Neighborhood Association is concerned over proposals regarding the entering and exiting the neighborhood from Parkwood Road and Rowood Road; at its last general meeting, the neighborhood voiced that the lasted TxDOT proposed entrance/exit configuration limiting left hand turns without a traffic signal from Rowood Road was not acceptable. Does TxDOT plan on presenting alternative configurations for these intersections to address our access concerns?
  • The Mueller Neighborhood Association would like clarification on whether TxDOT intends to connect Philomena Street to the northbound IH35 frontage road. Is this connection planned and would it include both ingress and egress into the neighborhood?
  • Several group and neighborhoods have voiced specific concern over accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists with regard to the changes at the 51st Street intersection, specifically concerning the roundabout. Some have questioned whether an innovative intersection at this location is even necessary if the collector-distributor allowing bypass of this intersection is built. Will TxDOT commit to working with Bike Austin and the Pedestrian Advisory Committee to make sure that the design meets best practices for this kind of intersection for bicycles and pedestrians?
  • Several neighborhoods east of IH35 have voiced concern over pedestrian and bicycle access at the intersection of Airport Boulevard and IH35 as well as a lack of safe and comfortable accommodation for people walking and or biking to Hancock Center. There is concern that the proposed Diverging Diamond Intersection will exacerbate these problems. Will TxDOT commit to working with neighborhoods to make sure that designs facilitate safe and comfortable passage at Hancock Center and Airport Boulevard?
  • Finally, we have assembled a list of additional concerns throughout the Segment 4 area, including:
  1. The specifics of intersections are difficult to discern from plans. When will TxDOT provide detail plans and visualizations of intersection proposals to NCINC2 and its neighborhood associations?
  2. How much property is expected to be purchased along IH35 for the projects? Property ownersalong this corridor are struggling to value and improve these properties without knowing how they will be affected by Mobility35 plans.
  3. How wide are lane widths proposed for bridges? If they are greater than 10.5’ can that right-ofway be reallocated to add space for bicycles and pedestrians?

As representatives of Member Neighborhoods to NCINC2, we endeavor to be active, informed, open-minded and critical when necessary to ensure that TxDOT and its consultants, along with our regional transportation planning authorities, conceive of a future for IH35 that supports the City of Austin and the health, well-being and mobility
of its residents. We ask that TxDOT respond to this letter by meeting with our membership specifically to discuss answers to the questions outlined above at the agency’s earliest opportunity.

Sincerely yours,
Brendan Wittstruck, Chair

On behalf of the Member Neighborhoods of the North Central I-35 Neighborhood Coalition 2

att: NCINC2 Letter to TxDOT, July 26, 2015

Addressed to:

Karen Lorenzini
I-35 Program Manager
Texas Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 15426
Austin, Texas 78761-5426

Joe Webber
Executive Director
Texas Department of Transportation
125 East 11th Street
Austin, Texas 78701

Greg Malatek, P.E.
Austin District Engineer
Texas Department of Transportation
P.O. Drawer 15426
Austin, Texas 78761-5426

Terry McCoy, PE
North Austin Area Engineer
Texas Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 15426
Austin, Texas 78761-5425

cc: Senator Kirk Watson
Rep. Dawnna Dukes, District 46
Rep. Elliott Naishtat, District 49
Mayor Steve Adler
Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo
Council Member Ora Houston
Council Member Delia Garza
Council Member Sabino Renteria
Council Member Gregorio Casar
Council Member Ann Kitchen
Council Member Don Zimmerman
Council Member Leslie Pool
Council Member Ellen Troxclair
Council Member Sheri Gallo
Joe Cantalupo, CAMPO
Mike Heiligenstein, CTRMA
Rob Spillar, City of Austin
President and President-Elect William Powers
and Greg Fenves, University of Texas
Jim Walker, University of Texas

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