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Austin mobility bond on its way to a vote, but how would it help congestion?

The Austin city council officially approved the mobility bond for the November election that one transportation expert says focuses more on safety than congestion relief. (Photo Credit: CBS Austin)

The Austin City Council officially approved the mobility bond for the November election that one transportation expert says focuses more on safety than congestion relief.

The people of Austin will vote on November 8 on whether or not to approve a $720 million transportation package. A majority of it, $482 million, will go towards corridor improvement projects like on North Lamar, Burnet, Airport, Guadalupe, Riverside, East Martin Luther King Blvd and South Lamar.

UT professor and transportation engineer expert Kara Kockelman took a brief look at those improvements.

“I would say they are mobility improvements for non-motorized users primarily,” Kockelman said.

She says the bond for the corridor improvements mainly focuses on safety. "Pedestrians and motorists will be safer with these improvements,” Kockelman said.

Still, she says it does have improvements that could help with drivers’ daily commutes. "Yeah, I think by making modes of transportation more viable it could help reduce some of the loads and give people options,” Kockelman said.

Those include improving signal timing, adding turn lanes and adding roundabouts. In one corridor, the study says improving intersections helps traffic flow. The Airport Boulevard study says it did that as opposed to turning it from four lanes to six lanes.

Several studies also add medians. Kockelman says those can help congestion and safety.

She also says overall, the improvements from the bond package are needed. “It’s a valuable improvement, it’s not so much to reduce delay by drivers however,” Kockelman said.

She says there are other ways to reduce congestion. That includes separating grade at intersections so there is continuous traffic flow.

She also says tolling cars will help, both on inner city roads and the bridges over the river. “If you can limit the crossings you can definitely limit the other side,” Kockelman said. “That has to come with some sticks, we don’t have a lot of carrots to offer here.”

She says the city could also just add lanes and traffic capacity on roads, but she wouldn’t suggest that. “It would be kind of a scary place to live, it would be a really ugly place to live,” Kockelman said.

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