5th Street May Soon Accommodate Two-Way Traffic

In an effort to reduce congestion in downtown Austin when Sixth Street is closed, the city is looking to convert one of its one-way streets into a two-way.

By spring, the city could add one westbound lane to the current eastbound-only Fifth Street between Brazos Street and I-35.

“We realized our traffic during special events when Sixth Street is closed is that we have severe congestion in this part of the corridor,” said Rob Spillar, director of the Austin Transportation Department, during Wednesday’s Austin City Council Mobility Committee meeting.

The proposed change came from an analysis the Austin Chamber of Commerce and Hilton Austin Hotel asked the city to conduct because of Capital Metro’s plans to build a permanent MetroRail station on Fourth Street and close through traffic to vehicles.

A pedestrian plaza would also be added, and Capital Metro plans to restrict traffic on Fourth between Red River and Trinity for pedestrian and bicycle use only. Traffic on Neches will end in a cul-de-sac at Fourth.

“We were really concerned about this closure,” said Lee Austin, central area engineer for ATD. “Sixth Street is a major westbound arterial, so when it’s closed, drivers don’t have anything in that area.”

The city’s analysis found that during times when Sixth Street was closed, drivers would use Fourth Street, and traffic would back up on the I-35 frontage road, blocking vehicles coming from Fifth to I-35, Austin said.

Traffic exiting the Hilton would turn left onto Red River and take a left onto Fifth for westbound access, she said.

Spillar said before the city even begins construction it would need to gather public input. The change could be implemented in April or May after South by Southwest Conferences and Festivals is finished.

“This is a transformation of an existing parking lane,” he said. “We can reconfigure parking in this area. We think we can accommodate this in our operating budget.”


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