Three Austin-area roads could be reversible by 2045

Three Austin-area roads could have reversible lanes by 2045 under a proposal that is receiving mixed reviews from local officials.

But area transportation officials said implementing the directional changes, in which a lane of traffic may travel in either direction depending on the time of day to alleviate congestion, are a long way from being recommended.

A regional study released in June by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization proposes to implement reversible lanes on Bee Cave Road, RM 2222 and FM 969 during peak morning and evening hours. It is part of the CAMPO’s regional arterials study, a component of its 2045 transportation plan. CAMPO’s plans also include adding other flexible lane options to regional and major local corridors using nontolled managed options such as HOV or restricted lanes.

Doise Miers, community outreach manager with CAMPO, said the 2045 plan, which will see recommendations prioritized next year, will include driving, walking, biking and intelligent transportation options to help meet the region’s needs and make commutes easier.

All three roads being considered for reversible lanes are already undergoing work to make them safer for drivers and pedestrians, as well as to improve traffic flow.

According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the concept has been used in Arlington and Houston. In 2009, Arlington built a reversible lane system for event traffic at the Texas Rangers’ and Dallas Cowboys’ stadiums. In downtown Houston, West Alabama Street and North Main Street are three-lane roads that operate in a “two-inbound, one-outbound” configuration during morning peak hours and a “one-in, two-out” configuration during the evening peak hours. The Golden Gate Bridge also uses this system.

County Commissioner Jeff Travillion, whose precinct covers the eastern part of Travis County, said he is open to the idea because more development is cropping up along FM 969 east of U.S. 183.

“I think this has the potential to be impactful,” Travillion said of reversible lanes. “Given the issues in that region, there will be no magic bullet. We’ve really got to evaluate all the opportunities and recommendations given to us but have to be smart about the way we program it so that we do things to complement what is already in place.”

In West Austin, RM 2222 is being considered for reversible lanes in 2045, and Austin officials said that is just one of several options to consider in improving mobility over the next 25 years. Center turn lanes are expected to be completed late next year on portions of RM 2222 and RM 620.

“Reversible lanes on roadways allow transportation agencies to make better use of existing infrastructure by aligning the supply with the demand but may require many operational considerations,” said Cole Kitten, the systems development division manager for the Austin Transportation Department.

A current project on Bee Cave Road, slated for completion in December, includes building a center turn lane between Redbud Trail and Walsh Tarlton Lane, as well as adding shoulders and sidewalks within the approximately 2-mile area.

Some Westlake community leaders are opposed to the implementation of reversible lanes, even if it wouldn’t happen for 25 years. West Lake Hills plans to draft a letter to CAMPO opposing the idea.

Mayor Linda Anthony said the city has focused on the Bee Cave Road project for the past five years, spending two-thirds of its reserve funds. Implementing a reversible lane system would nullify all the work the city has done, she said.

“Reversible lanes are popular at some corridors and (CAMPO is) probably anticipating population growth continuing west 20 to 30 years down the road, so here is a way to increase traffic flow, but that is not what that center turn lane is built for,” Anthony said. “It’s built to improve safety and accessibility for our commercial corridor.”

How the reversible lanes would work would be up to the local government entities. Using a combination of factors, including traffic numbers and directional flow, the entities would have to study the best times and lane options to help traffic flow during those peak hours, Miers said.

However, this concept is not official and remains unfunded, Miers noted. An environmental study would be conducted and public input gathered, she said.

“Right now this is a collection of ideas of how we can improve mobility in the next 25-year period and something that project sponsors like cities, counties and TxDOT will have to evaluate further,” Miers said.

Residents can submit public comment to CAMPO’s online open house through 5 p.m. Monday. Click the email comments or share your thoughts button to give feedback. Feedback on the regional arterial study will be shared with the CAMPO board of directors in the fall.