Left turns will be restricted along Austin’s light rail routes
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Turning left won’t be as easy for drivers along major streets slated to become routes for the city’s new light rail system. the Orange and blue lines are expected to begin operating by the end of the decade as part of the voter-approved $7.1 billion transit expansion called Project Connect.
City and transit officials want the orange and blue lines to run down the middle of the street on thoroughfares such as South Congress Avenue, North Lamar Boulevard and Riverside Drive. Allowing cars and trucks to turn left onto tracks where they want could slow trains and increase the risk of accidents, officials said.
Instead, drivers will have to turn around at the next traffic light and return to the street or business they want to access. The city would not add dedicated U-turn lanes.
“Left turns are tricky today and adding rail crossing is just another maneuver that’s best done with a U-turn,” said Annick Beaudet of the city’s Project Connect office recently. Recount a panel of local elected officials.
The change will not require City Council approval, according to the Austin Department of Transportation.
ATD does not know how many intersections would be affected, but expects to produce a list in the coming months. Restrictions on left turns would not take effect until light rail lines are built.
Restricting left turns is a common safety practice along light rail routes in cities like Houston, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City.
“It’s a way to prioritize transit and allow for greater throughput of people and greater overall mobility for the community as a whole with a few trade-offs,” said Lyndon Henry, a city planning consultant. Transportation who sits on a technical committee advising the Austin Transit Partnership on the project. Connect.
“But it happens all the time whenever they improve a main road [by adding a center median]”, he said. “It happens as a city grows.”