March 17, 2017
By Syeda Hasan
Residents of the Rainey Street neighborhood struck a deal last year with a developer looking to build new condos in the area. It agreed to conduct a comprehensive traffic study, determining what the most pressing transportation needs are and how they could be affected by new development.
Preliminary findings of the study show that on a typical weekend night, cars frequently stop in the middle of Rainey Street to drop off people going to nearby bars and restaurants. The lack of designated crosswalks means pedestrians often make dangerous crossings.
“What the neighborhood associations were worried about was development coming into the neighborhood, and they were particularly concerned about their vehicle congestion getting into and out of the neighborhood,” said Dan Hennessey with Big Red Dog Engineering, which conducted the study.
This study was prompted by a condo complex proposed by Austin-based Sutton Co. Before breaking ground, Sutton agreed to pay for neighbors to commission a comprehensive traffic study of the area. The goal is to help guide this project as well as future development.
Big Red Dog also floated the idea of extending Rainey, which currently ends at Driskill, to Cesar Chavez.
“Really, what we wanted to do was take a comprehensive look at everywhere that they might add connectivity, whether that’s for pedestrians, vehicles,” Hennessey said, “and it was less about capacity and more about completing a grid so that there’s more options to get around.”
Last year, Austin City Council voted to lift a cap on the number of units that Sutton Co. could build on the site. Currently, the space is occupied by the 58-unit Villas on Town Lake condominiums. Lora Herring lived there for 23 years; she moved last year to a complex down the street from her mother.
“Used to [be], they could call me at 2 in the morning, ‘Your dad fell,’ I could jump in the car and be right over, and now if that happened on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, it would be, ‘Oh, I could be there in 45 minutes or something,’” she said.
Herring heard Big Red Dog’s proposals at a recent public meeting. While she supports adding designated drop-off areas and improving transit access on Rainey Street, she thinks proposals like street expansions would be tough.
Hennessey said Big Red Dog plans to take its findings to city staff for review. He said there will also be one last public meeting next month to further vet the recommendations.