An updated plan calls for The Drag to lose all vehicle traffic as a part of Project Connect, the city’s multibillion-dollar transit initiative.
The plan is part of Project Connect’s Orange Line and will allow for only pedestrians, bikes, city buses and a light rail system on Guadalupe Street between 22nd and 29th streets, according to a town hall meeting Tuesday. Austin Transit Partnership, which oversees Project Connect, proposed two scenarios to focus on pedestrians and make The Drag less of a highway and more of a destination, said Peter Mullan, chief of architecture and urban design for ATP.
“As we evaluate how to integrate this new, properly powerful transit mobility infrastructure into the Guadalupe corridor, we also recognize that The Drag is one of the iconic places the city epitomizes and embodies many of the things that make Austin and give it its character,” Mullan said.
The plan will redirect commuter traffic to major roadways and local traffic to district streets, said Meg Merritt, principal at Movitas Mobility, a transportation planning consulting firm. ATP presented findings that showed removing traffic from The Drag will not increase traffic in other areas of the city.
Planners are currently choosing between two scenarios, one with a shared bus and bike lane, and another with a separate bike lane.
The Orange Line will cause some local businesses to be torn down, including Dirty Martin’s Place, a 97-year-old restaurant on Guadalupe Street. Community members raised concerns about the route, asking why the Orange Line could not be built around the business or run through nonhistorical residences.
Lonny Stern, manager of business and community partnerships for ATP, said the decision to displace businesses was made because it’s “preferable” when compared to tearing down people’s homes.
“In this area on The Drag, you really are constrained, and it’s a choice between those two,” Stern said.
This summer, Nueces Street will become a two-way street between 24th and Guadalupe streets to accommodate northbound traffic out of West Campus, a project separate from, but that aligns with, Project Connect.
“Our aim is to create a high-quality experience for all ages, all abilities, and it will be evident in our careful attention to the design, and not necessarily always prioritizing the speed of cars but rather prioritizing getting more people through the corridor safely and efficiently,” said Jackie Nirenberg, director of community engagement and involvement for ATP.
Community feedback can be given to email@example.com, and participation opportunities can be found at projectconnect.com/get-involved.
Originally published June 16, 2022, in The Daily Texan
By Leila Saidane
Photo by Jacob Fraga