City to improve MLK, I-35 intersection

Jameson Pitts

The Austin Transportation Department will implement $375,000 in safety improvements for the intersection of the I-35 southbound service drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

According to the City of Austin’s website, 79 people have died so far this year on Austin roads — 15 more than the normal average in Austin for the entire year. This intersection is one of the five most dangerous intersections in Austin, according to a list developed by the transportation department in response to a request by City Council.

Upal Barua, Austin Transportation Department engineer, said the department compiled the list based on number and rate of crashes, accident severity and available engineering solutions.

The City Council approved additional funding for the safety improvement projects identified by Austin Transportation Department in the 2015–2016 city budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1. The total estimated cost to improve all five intersections is nearly $4 million.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard intersection has an average of 14 casualty collisions per year, making it one of the most dangerous intersections in Austin because of its high rate of collisions given its traffic volume.

“We’ll be re-striping so that we can add a lane,” Barua said. “At the same time, there might be some curb work on the eastbound to southbound right turn.”

Southbound traffic entering the intersection currently has two right-turn-only lanes. The additional lane will be added in order to convert the central right-turn-only lane to an optional right-turn or through lane. The transportation department also plans to design a sharper turn to force drivers to slow down and to protect pedestrians.

Samantha Alexander, public information and marketing manager from the Austin Transportation Department, said it is too early to provide a time frame for the project, considering the many steps involved.

“We’re getting started on the process immediately,” Alexander said. “The process includes contracting, design and then construction.”

Corporate communications senior Jennifer Ryan, who passes through the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and I-35 intersection on her daily commute, said she is concerned about how additional construction near campus will affect commuter students.

“I am in support of safety,” Ryan said. “Hopefully they’ll wait until football season is over so not as many people are subject to the inconvenience.”

Alexander said students should remain aware of their surroundings, whether coming home from a football game or dressing to safely jog at night.

“Neons are in this season,” Alexander said.