AUSTIN, Texas - It's the day-to-day grind of driving through Austin. Congestion at every corner giving drivers a headache that has no cure. Austin's Chamber of Commerce Jeremy Martin says the problem is a top priority for his members, "We just don't have the capacity to meet the demand for people to get to and from work."
According to the city, Austin has twelve out of the top 100 most congested roadways in Texas. And as one of the fastest growing in the country, it can only get worse."When it comes to success for our economic development, our ability to produce a great quality of life is hampered by traffic," says Martin.
A panel of Transportation executives met with the City Council on Monday to try and lay out a plan for immediate relief. The Executive Director for Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Ashby Johnson was one of them. "We don't have the existing space to expand freeways in Houston and Dallas like they are continuing to do." So he says Austin has to work with what it has. That includes making traffic signal timing faster, making buses run more frequently, and promoting job growth in suburban areas - to reduce commute time.
Another problem plaguing Austin drivers is the amount of time it takes to clear wrecks from roadways. Johnson says they are working on a partnership to make it happen even faster. "Instead of it taking four hours, it should only take an hour or less so we can get traffic moving again," says Johnson.
One stretch where it hardly moves is I-35 from 290N to 71. That's the second most congested roadway in Texas. And where a minor accident can back up traffic for miles. "One thing that leads to congestion would be minor collisions where citizens don't want to move their cars," says Austin Police Senior Officer Nathan Blake. "We'd like to stress that you move your vehicles off the road if possible. Call 911 if someone is injured. Call a tow truck if your car won't move." APD advises when you move your car, that's it's to a safe place off the highway, then trade information with the other driver and call your insurance company. When your crash isn't being investigated by police, you can also file a Crash Report with TxDot.
We may not wake up from this traffic nightmare any time soon but, says Martin, it's a combination of things that will collectively save drivers some much needed time. "There is no one solution. We need to work on as many projects as we can to improve traffic today including to plan for traffic tomorrow."
Some of those projects include adding express lanes to freeways. One on Mopac is under construction and expected to open up later this year. And there is an express lane study for I-35 underway now.