Improve traffic

Published 10:59 am Thursday, December 29, 2011

Any talk of further developing Austin’s downtown needs to include plans for improving the street parking situation. Several proposed Vision 2020 projects and the county’s plans to move Health and Human Services offices downtown would all increase traffic, which even at its current levels is difficult near some intersections because of the way cars are parked.

The three-way intersection forming a “T” at Fourth Avenue and Second Street NE perfectly illustrates why the city’s parking plan needs to be updated. A driver turning left from Fourth Ave. NE to Second St. NE can experience quite a wait — but, worse, parking is allowed so close to the intersection that parked trucks or SUVs make it nearly impossible for drivers to see what’s coming until they’ve inched their way into the intersection. Simply put, it’s dangerous.

The obvious question is: What to do with the intersection and others like it?

Email newsletter signup

The answer can be as simple as turning the intersection into a three-way stop, which would eliminate much of the danger there. It might also make sense to eliminate parking places that are very close to the corners throughout downtown. Even at the intersections with stoplights on Main Street, the current parking situation makes for more congestion than is necessary or safe.

Yes, that would cost parking spaces downtown, but it might be a useful trade compared to increasing traffic congestion. And the risk of losing street parking spaces can be minimized if city planners include the need for more off-street parking in any discussions about future development.

If Austin wants more visitors to the downtown, if further development is to truly flower, the city needs to be rid of as much of the downtown traffic congestion and danger as possible.