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Austin residents fear city’s transportation plan will change their neighborhood

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Neighbors in downtown Austin fear changes to Austin’s city street network could spell the end of their neighborhood as they know it.

In Rosedale, West 49th Street is a narrow road surrounded by homes, a school, and a historic site. Joe and Caroline Reynolds have called this area home for decades.

“We’ve lived here for over 40 years,” Caroline said.

West 49th Street is just one of many city streets listed in the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan Street network. It is a plan that will serve as a model for how streets will be developed in the city for the next 20 years and beyond.

Currently, the city is proposing technical changes to the road network on how streets are defined and categorized. Those at the Austin Department of Transportation said the changes align with plans such as the Austin 2014 Bike Map.

For longtime neighbors like the Reynolds — who are also on the Austin Neighborhood Council — as well as others, it’s the right-of-way proposals that worry them.

Under the adopted ASMP plan, West 49th Street is listed as a Level 2 street with varying section-by-section right-of-way requirements, each offering improvements.

For example, between Lynnwood Street and Burnet Road, there is a need to improve sidewalks and cycling facilities with the following look at its right-of-way.

Average RDM 50.90
Median rank 50.01
Minimum footprint 45.29
Maximum grip 87.14
Rank required 70
Notes on right-of-way Further study is required to prioritize design elements or right-of-way acquisition.
(Source: Austin Department of Transportation Map of the ASMP road network – Adopted)

Between Ramsey Avenue and Lynnwood Street, it features similar improvements with a variation in the right-of-way.

Average RDM 49.78
Median rank 47.54
Minimum footprint 47.46
Maximum grip 54.34
Rank required 70
Notes on right-of-way Further study is required to prioritize design elements or right-of-way acquisition.
(Source: Austin Department of Transportation Map of the ASMP road network – Adopted)

From Sinclair Avenue to Ramsey Avenue, authorities cite cycling facilities as the improvement with a similar right-of-way to the previous section.

Average ROW 46.68
Median rank 46.82
Minimum footprint 45.56
Maximum grip 47.49
Rank required 70
Notes on right-of-way Further study is required to prioritize design elements or right-of-way acquisition.
(Source: Austin Department of Transportation Map of the ASMP road network – Adopted)

Cycling facilities are also on the list between Shady Glade Court and Sinclair Avenue, with the right-of-way changing a bit.

Average RDM 46.82
Median rank 45.12
Minimum footprint 44.62
Maximum grip 74.31
Rank required 70
Notes on right-of-way Further study is required to prioritize design elements or right-of-way acquisition.
(Source: Austin Department of Transportation Map of the ASMP road network – Adopted)

The same goes for W. 49th Street between Woodview Avenue and Shady Glade Court. The city also lists cycling facilities.

Average RDM 48.81
Median rank 48.51
Minimum footprint 47.47
Maximum grip 56.14
Rank required 70
Notes on right-of-way Further study is required to prioritize design elements or right-of-way acquisition.
(Source: Austin Department of Transportation Map of the ASMP road network – Adopted)

The Reynolds said one of their main concerns is that the narrow road cannot be widened for additional right of way or people will lose their homes.

Those in the city’s transportation department said any proposed changes to existing streets are merely technical — at least for now.

“The intent is not to acquire all of this right of way,” said Cole Kitten, division chief at the Department of Transportation. “It is simply to capture and reflect that a cycling facility is desired along this street.”

This means that a street like 49th could eventually see cycling facilities installed, but those changes would be made within the existing right-of-way. This could include stripping or redesigning the parking lot.

When it comes to the news ASMP road network project right-of-way requirements, the city said these classifications are for new street development, not existing ones like 49th Street.

“I think that’s a big part of what may have been missing in this round is that maybe those clarifications weren’t readily available to not be alarmed by the type of changes,” said Kitten said of this round of commentary.

However, the Reynolds remain concerned about what these classifications could mean for the future.

“If the bike lanes need a level 2 street, go get a level 2 street. They don’t,” Joe said.

Those who would like to see Changes to the ASMP road network have until the end of the month to give their opinion. A proposed plan will be presented to two commissions and the city’s mobility committee in March before being submitted to city council for approval later this spring.