Right Sizing Our Roads

“I love all the activity downtown,” a young dad said to his two young daughters on a recent afternoon as they sat outside a shop on 3rd Street. Yes – 3rd Street, not 2nd Street. That’s worth noting because 3rd St. is definitely a street in transition. Some sections have seen new construction in recent years, and some others are still under construction.Screen shot 2015-09-01 at 12.36.34 PM

This dad’s observation had us wondering, is this a street “right sizing” project? Cities around the country, including Austin, are taking on a variety of right sizing projects in order to accommodate more users on city streets. 3rd St. seems to be retaining much of its street parking, but it is reducing motorized lanes from four lanes to two lanes.

While we haven’t been able to find a description of the vision for the overall project, a bare bones project description from the City says Public Works is completely reconstructing East and West 3rd Street from Shoal Creek to Trinity Street. That includes sub-street improvements for storm drains and water lines, full depth street reconstruction, widened sidewalks, street trees, typical Great Streets furnishings, and installation of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway with concrete barrier curbs separating vehicle traffic from bicycle traffic.

Currently 3rd dead ends at the Convention Center on the east then picks up again to head west, where it passes new hotels, apartment buildings, offices, two big surface parking lots, and the state garage before dead-ending at a bike-pedestrian bridge at Shoal Creek. Scattered between are two Royal Blue Grocery stores, retail, the Austin Ballet, and several popular bars and restaurants. Needless to say, there isn’t yet a clear direction for the 3rd Street experience.

We look forward to seeing how people use 3rd St. as construction ends, and just as importantly, how businesses respond to this made-over street. There is also a new project coming soon on San Jacinto that you should also keep a lookout for.

photo courtesy of peopleforbikes.org

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