Construction makes way for biker-friendly roads

Allie Kolechta

The construction on Rio Grande Street will make way for a two-way bike lane, more parking on the east side of the street and a 12-foot renovated streetscape, according to a University Area Partners official.

The project is one of several others currently underway in West Campus, including a construction project behind the 7-Eleven on 26th Street and a project on 24th Street and Longview Street, said John Lawler, Student Government liberal arts representative. The project on Rio Grande Street will bring more change and more improvement than the others, he said.

“Right off the bat, the more disruptive project in West Campus is the Rio Grande Street one,” he said. “Something really cool about it is that it ultimately looks so different from how it was originally proposed.”

The bike lane will be the first of its kind in Austin, and both lanes will eventually stretch from Martin Luther King Boulevard to 29th Street, Lawler said.

“The thing to always remember about West Campus infrastructure is that local developers influence so much of it,” he said. “The Rio Grande reconstruction in West Campus is a good sign for students that the city is actually trying to upgrade the area.”

The project will improve pedestrian and bike traffic up and down Rio Grande Street, said Mike McHone, vice president and city council liaison of UAP. The UAP group working on the project is composed of SG and other UT organizations along with city officials to make sure that the area around campus is kept acceptable, said McHone.

The Environmental Protection Agency sued the city in the 1980s for failing sewage systems on Rio Grande Street, McHone said. The UAP decided to try to improve water lines, drainage and the bike infrastructure and streetscape on Rio Grande, he said.

“Student Government is already on board,” he said. “Right now, bikes go where they go, but we want more bike infrastructure so bicycles can move more freely.”

The Parking Benefit District has nearly $300,000 to contribute to the project, McHone said. The director of the PBD, Howard Lazarus, has advocated for the construction project, he said.

“We were finally able to convince property owners to go for a two-lane bike lane,” McHone said. “It will be a very good improvement given the increased number of bicycles in the area.”

During the parks administration, the SG assembly passed a resolution in favor of improving roadways and bike infrastructure in West Campus, said SG President Natalie Butler. She said SG is in support of the Rio Grande construction.

Printed on Thursday, September 29, 2011 as: Construction to make roads biker-friendly