Zach Scott Re-Design. Image credited to Preston Tyree.

What’s Up with Zach Scott Street?

Andrew Clements Article, Front Porch Flyer

(SEE BELOW FOR Latest Project Update)

Mueller residents experienced the gravel going down on Zach Scott Street, west of Berkman to Airport Boulevard (wasn’t that a fun phase?).  Then a new coat of asphalt but no traffic lane striping or other markings yet. Just what is up?

Well, it started with a notice from the City of Austin Transportation Department (ATD) back in July.  The letter notice was alerting Mueller residents to “an opportunity to give input on proposed street improvements” – and those streets were Zach Scott Street (from Airport Boulevard to Berkman Drive) and Schieffer Avenue (what Zach Scott becomes after crossing Airport) plus an illustration of existing and new street cross-section to depict proposed changes.  The primary improvement proposed was two-way protected (meaning separated from traffic) bicycle lanes. See Figures 1-3 from the ATD letter notice below.

Credit - Austin Transportation Department.

Credit – Austin Transportation Department.

The MNA Steering Committee directed the Transportation & Urban Planning Committee (hereafter referred to as the Transportation Committee) to study the ATD proposal, and to prepare a possible MNA response. The Committee sought neighborhood response, especially from residents along the affected stretch of Zach Scott Street. What came through loud and clear was the loss of on-street car parking, on the entire north side of the street (under the ATD proposal) was not welcomed or acceptable.  And the Transportation Committee had two additional concerns – namely that the perceived “open” width of the street increased under the ATD proposal and would likely result in increased and unsafe speeds; and that pedestrians’ crossing distances, both real and perceived, at cross-street intersections would increase, making crossing Zach Scott feel even more unsafe than now.

A formal Project Open House was held by the ATD on August 8th at the AISD PAC to get public input, and a formal MNA Counter-Proposal was prepared by the LUT Committee, approved by the MNA, and sent to the ATD. The MNA Counter-Proposal street cross-section (see illustration below) keeps two-way protected bicycle lanes, but a narrower barrier allows on-street car parking to remain on the north side of Zach Scott. Another benefit is the perceived open width (between on-street parking on both sides) is less than the ATD Proposal, which means traffic speeds should be lower.

And the result?  The MNA Counter-Proposal was accepted (to a great extent) by the ATD!  And most (okay, not all) of the on-street parking on the north side of Zach Scott Street, in front of residences, will remain. Some existing parking will be lost for safe “sight distances” at intersections. The work will be phased, with a possible curbed barrier between the bike lanes and car parking coming last, and in a partnership between ATD and Catellus (Master Developer of Mueller).  Even more good news? The intersection of Mattie and Zach Scott will be studied for all-way stop signs and an improved trail crossing at Tom Miller Street.

The final image, below, shows the actual ATD layout to be installed along a typical block of Zach Scott.

Credit - Austin Transportation Department.

Credit – Austin Transportation Department.

Thanks to all Mueller Residents who participated in this effort; and members of the MNA Transportation Committee (especially Preston Tyree), and to the Austin Transportation Department & Austin Fire Department who listened to our concerns and maintained transparency throughout the process. 

UPDATE:

The Austin Transportation Department (ATD) issued an update in mid-January. No real changes in the project, including the features the MNA advocated (yea!) but notice with a more detailed proposed timeline including the following:

  • Construction on intersection improvements at Zach Scott Street and Berkman Drive is expected to begin in mid to late January, and work may last roughly three weeks.  
  • Construction on intersection improvements at Zach Scott Street and Airport Boulevard is expected to begin immediately following completion of construction at Berkman Drive and may last roughly three weeks. Intersection improvement construction is expected to be completed by March.  
  • Roadway striping installation on Zach Scott Street between Airport Boulevard and Berkman Drive, and on Schieffer Avenue between Vineland Drive and Airport Boulevard, will be coordinated with the completion of intersection improvements, and so is expected to be performed in March 2019.

More good news regarding another MNA advocacy point: ATD has received approval to install all-way stop signs on the Mueller portion of Zach Scott Street (between Airport Boulevard and Berkman Drive) – at the Mattie Street and Camacho Street intersections. These new, additional all-way stops will increase safety, both for pedestrians crossing at these intersections and by reducing driving speeds on Zach Scott. According to the ATD update, these all-way stops should be installed along with the roadway striping phase of the project.

The update also states “ATD and Catellus continue to explore a partnership to upgrade the striped bicycle facilities to include raised curb protections.  If this partnership reaches an agreement, these upgrades could be constructed in a later phase.” (Author’s note:  this is considered a very desirable upgrade, and is a feature the MNA advocated for previously.)

Austin Transportation Department project website:

https://www.austintexas.gov/page/zach-scott-street-and-schiefferavenue. If you have questions or comments, please contact Neil Quarles at (512) 974-7657 or [email protected]]

El Departamento de Transporte de Austin (ATD) pronto implementará mejoras planificadas en Zach Scott Street desde Airport Boulevard hasta Berkman Drive, y Schieffer Avenue desde Vineland Drive hasta Airport Boulevard. Sin embargo, debido a las dificultades climáticas y de los equipos, el programa de construcción ha cambiado y va a ocurrir entre enero y marzo de 2019. Si necesita un documento traducido en español, llame a (512) 974-7092.

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