AUSTIN (KXAN) — The first project from the 2016 voter-approved $720 million Austin mobility bond has been completed, but it won’t be for any vehicular traffic, but rather for pedestrians. Austin Mayor Steve Adler said from the get go the first projects he wanted to tackle were the sidewalks because they are easier to engineer and produce than roads and are less expensive.
The first sidewalk completed is along Chesterfield Avenue in central Austin connecting North Loop with Koenig Lane. As city officials ask residents to use transportation options other than their car, sidewalks are connecting people to schools, bus stops, and parks. In fact, city officials say residents are more likely to walk up to half a mile to their destination if they have a safe way to get there.
Lauren Revels, a mom of a 1-year-old, was pushing her stroller along the new sidewalk on Chesterfield Avenue Wednesday morning—something she says she does each morning and afternoon because of the new sidewalk.
“It’s made it much more of a usable public space for everyone,” says Revels. “I see people out here with their dogs in the morning and it has just been really great for our neighborhood, I think it has opened up access on Chesterfield.”
The sidewalk program also partnered with the city’s transportation department to install a protected bike lane along North Loop and a pedestrian crossing to get walkers safely across the road to shops on the other side.
The new sidewalk Revels is strolling along is only a small section of the 390 miles of sidewalks that need to be created as part of their Sidewalk Master Plan; $37.5 million is set aside for sidewalks as part of the bond to pay for a portion of the master plan. The city’s public works department say 80 percent of the existing sidewalks in the city are in poor condition and nearly half have some type of overgrown vegetation.
While city officials have prioritized several new sidewalks, they still want to hear from the public about where sidewalks are needed.
“The best thing for someone to do is dial 311 and ask for that sidewalk segment,” says Diane Rice, Public Works Department Project Manager, Sidewalk Division. “That is also taken into account in prioritizing those sidewalks how many calls made to 311.”
Several additional sidewalk projects are expected to begin within the next 30 days in places like North Lamar Boulevard between US 183 and Rundberg Lane to replace several gaps in the sidewalks. To the south, a portion of South 6th Street will get sidewalks near Annie Street.
The city has created an interactive map for the public to follow where sidewalk projects are expected to take place.
On KXAN News Today, Kate Weidaw is live from the Crestview neighborhood to talk about how sidewalks can make a huge difference in connectivity.