Rainey Street neighbors say city needs to improve mobility now to keep up with density

People who live in the Rainey Street District said it's beyond time for City Council to address infrastructure issues there, but an assistant city manager is recommending council does not approve an ordinance designed to help with just that. 

A local engineering firm counted 1,500 people walking past the Rainey and River intersection on one Saturday night between 9:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. 

“It's a lot, it's a lot of people that are coming in the neighborhood, that are moving in the neighborhood, and we just need for something to be done,” said Sandra De Leon, president of the Rainey Neighbor’s Association.  

Developers on Rainey Street are building higher than ever before. 

“Initially it was all single family homes, and the streets were designed and the infrastructure was designed for single family homes, now, instead of having single family homes, what we're seeing is 35 story, 50 story, 40 story buildings,” said Michael Abelson, president of the Town Lake Neighborhood Association.

While the skyline is constantly changing, one thing has remained the same. 

“The growth that we're experiencing here, the growth is not sustainable if we do not do something now about the mobility situation,” De Leon said.  

On Thursday, Austin City Council will consider an ordinance to begin funding the Rainey Street District Special Revenue Fund once more. The fund was created in 2013 to help with infrastructure improvements there, but the Rainey Neighbor’s Association said the money that should've been collected for it never was.

“The resources just have not been prioritized for this area, and so we feel that that has resulted in a public safety issue,” said De Leon.  

“We're concerned because as the streets get narrower it's more and more difficult, especially when people double park or when they do things that they shouldn't be doing, but they do anyhow, that emergency vehicles can get in,” Abelson said.  

However, an assistant city manager has recommended deferred action on the fund until after the city discusses the 2020 budget. Councilwoman Kathie Tovo, who sponsored the ordinance, said she will recommend postponing the item instead because she feels funding mobility on Rainey is long overdue. 

“Since at least 2000, there's been four or five different resolutions and ordinances to try and improve the mobility infrastructure here and nothing has happened,” said De Leon.  

Neighbors on Rainey Street said with 15 proposed developments in the district, council needs to act now or risk driving people away. 

“People are frustrated because it's difficult to get in and out,” Abelson said. 

One thing City Council is expected to pass Thursday is a pilot program to close Rainey Street to traffic on weekends, similar to what the city does on Sixth Street. No times have been suggested yet, because they still need to discuss the idea with business owners. 

The city has also started using rideshare pickup zones near Rainey Street to help cut down on traffic.