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Good News for Traffic in Austin

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Austin drivers will notice new approaches to reducing traffic congestion in the next two to three weeks.

The most immediate changes will start at downtown traffic intersections and ultimately be implemented throughout other parts of Austin, City Manager Marc Ott said.

“The time we spend in our cars is time we lose enjoying the things we love most about our great city,” Ott said. “It’s time for us to acknowledge that we need to take responsibility and be part of the solution.”

Austin Police Department officers from the Highway Enforcement Division will form a Traffic Mobility Unit in key intersections of downtown to keep traffic flowing, APD Assistant Chief Chris McIlvain said.

In the first week of April the “Don’t Block the Box” campaign will kick off to educate drivers on how blocking intersections to make it through a yellow or red light makes traffic congestion worse. If drivers block an intersection, they can expect to be ticketed, Ott said. Misuse of transit lanes or on-street deliveries during peak commuting times will be more heavily enforced, he said.

“When you block an intersection you’re telling people that your time is more valuable than theirs and we’re going to urge everybody to don’t block the box,” Mayor Steve Adler said.

Factors considered in improving traffic congestion in the near future include commuting, signal management, special events, officer enforcement, construction, parking management and mass transit, Ott said.

During preliminary surveys, 180 city intersections were identified as needing improvements and would require minor construction to help ease traffic, Transportation Department Director Robert Spillar said. Those changes will include rearranging the geometric layout of intersections and changing how many people can take left turns and when, he said.

Adler and Ott said it is important for Austin drivers to understand the new approaches will be experimental and if something does not work the approach will be changed.

“We’re going to try things, [but] not everything is going to work,” Adler said. “We need feedback from folks. I want everyone to recognize that we’re trying things, and I want to include a specific challenge to Central Texans to observe the rules of the road and be respectful of other drivers.”


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