Austin rolls out new steps to keep downtown traffic moving

AUSTIN (KXAN) – City leaders unveiled what they’re calling a “comprehensive traffic plan” for downtown Austin Friday morning that takes immediate steps to integrate efforts by several city and non-city entities to help alleviate congestion in downtown Austin.

“It might seem ambitious,” city manager Marc Ott said, “Frankly it is. We need to be ambitious when it comes to easing congestion.”

The city will immediately further integrate police and the traffic management team within the Austin Transportation Department. The traffic management team will direct officers to downtown intersections to help address traffic issues in real time.

Those officers, from the city’s highway enforcement division, will issue fines to drivers who “block the box” or stop in the intersection.

“If you block an intersection you can expect to be ticketed,” Ott said.

KXAN talked with a man who lives and works downtown.  Alessandro Piovaccari says, I see that pretty often.  People going through the red light, going through the intersection.  Especially at rush hour.  It’s almost impossible to get around the building because people block the intersection all the time.”

A ramp up of “block the box” citations will be rolled out in a pilot program in early April in intersections identified by the city that need the emphasis, most likely along Caesar Chavez, explained Austin Transportation Department director Robert J Spillar.

The city has new signs to alert drivers of the potential of being fined for blocking the intersection.

Officers will also enforce bus lanes violations and peak-time deliveries that block lanes.

The Transportation Department will also work to install more dynamic traffic signals, starting at Caesar Chavez and Congress, to give traffic engineers more real-time access to help alleviate congestion

Rob Spillar with the city’s Transportation Department says, “It should be nothing new but its an effort for us to make sure folks understand that and know about it.”

The City of Austin will also reduce the number of it’s employees commuting during peak time by 20 percent across all departments. Mayor Steve Adler challenged major employers in Austin to follow suit.

APD says they’ll be meeting with city officials next week to decide which intersections officers will focus on first.

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