The U.S. Census Bureau has reported that the Austin-Round Rock metro area is now populated with over two million people! In addition to Austin and Round Rock this metro area also includes multiple smaller suburbs. Some of these suburbs are Bastrop Elgin Smithville Lockhart Luling Martindale Buda Dripping Springs San Marcos Kyle Wimberley Cedar Park Georgetown Liberty Hill Bee Cave Lakeway Pflugerville Leander and West Lake Hills to name a few. These areas lay within five counties: Travis Williamson Bastrop Hays and Caldwell.
With the continued growth to the area comes continued growth to the traffic congestion. Many people are collaborating to find solutions for these increased traffic problems in Austin. In the ten year span between 2002 and 2012 three toll road projects were completed in the area: SH45 SH130 and 183A.
- State Highway 45 was initially proposed as a complete loop around the Austin area but is currently consisting of two separate sections. Environmental impact has been cited as a major reason for the final section to not be built.
- State Highway 130 was specifically built to help divert trucking traffic off of I-35 and includes a section with the highest posted speed limit in the country (85mph).
- The 183A toll road was so popular after the first section was opened that a 5 mile extension was added to the north. It is completely electronic negating the need for drivers to stop at a booth to pay cash for their toll.
Currently the MoPac Improvement Project is adding express lanes to MoPac Expressway starting at Parmer Lane and extending south to Cesar Chavez Street. It is hoped that this will reduce the current congestion on MoPac. According to MoPacExpress.com “variable tolls in the Express Lanes are intended to keep traffic in the Express Lanes free flowing over the long term giving buses van pools and drivers who choose to use the Express Lanes a faster and more reliable trip.”
In addition to the area toll projects Austin has also submitted a proposal of how $50 million could be used here for high-tech transportation solutions. Austin’s proposal for this Smart City Challenge earned a finalist position along with six other cities. The winning city will be announced in June. In addition to the $50 million grant the top city will also receive technological advances from companies who have partnered up with the Smart City Challenge.
It is hoped that Austin’s current efforts will pay off and the city can continue to be proactive in finding solutions for traffic problems caused by the rapid growth.