City announces plans to help ease downtown congestion

Getting through the gridlock of downtown Austin is frustrating to thousands of commuters daily.

"It's time for us to start trying new things," said Mayor Steve Adler who shares the same frustrations about traffic.

Adler joined City Manager Marc Ott and several other city department leaders for a press conference to roll out new initiatives aimed at easing congestion in downtown. Some of the ideas will start almost immediately while others could take more time and money.

The city hopes to make improvements to intersections, street signals and crack down on road violations that create even more of a back-up. City officials say commuting, signal management, law enforcement, construction, special events, parking management and mass transit will all have a role in the congestion action plan.

Starting next week officers will be posted at several intersections along Cesar Chavez looking for drivers who block intersections. The campaign is called Don't Block the Box.

"Hear me out on this if you block an intersection you can expect to be ticketed," said Ott.

"What's different here is we are going to dedicate the resources to those intersections for those specific violations and our goal is to ensure traffic moves smoothly," said Chris McIlvain with APD.

The pilot program will start with Cesar Chavez and will likely be expanded.

"The time we spend in cars is time we lose," said Ott. He says his office and the city are ready to tackle transportation issues and acknowledges the plans are ambitious. "We have to be ambitious when it comes to easing congestion," he added.

City staffers have identified 180 intersections as needing improvements. One idea the city will consider is expanding the moratorium on road closures for downtown events by 20 percent and possibly raising prices for on-street parking downtown.

"It's great to hear they are attempting to make changes. We'll see how it pans out," said commuter Jason Lockhart.

"We want the public to tell us what works and what doesn't work," said Adler.