Like many Austinites, following New Year’s Day, Lamar Boulevard is set to go on a diet.
But unlike many Austinites, the road will follow through on its slimming effort. Its so-called “road diet” will manifest itself in the first phase of safety improvements that will in some stretches permanently remove lanes from South Lamar Boulevard.
The jargon for what is planned for Lamar Boulevard — an effort to place greater emphasis on alternative modes of transportation through more robust sidewalks and bike lanes — is often referred as a “road diet.”
With a $6.9 million contract recently approved by the Austin City Council, the first phase of South Lamar Boulevard’s diet is expected to begin in January or February. The renovation will focus on the stretch of road between Riverside Drive and Barton Springs Road, just south of Lady Bird Lake.
There, the city will build more robust sidewalks and bike lanes. The bike lanes in particular will be separated from the road by a raised curb. The city will also make improvements to medians and cut off some access to parking lot driveways that are deemed unsafe.
That stretch of Lamar Boulevard sees about 46,800 vehicles a day, according to 2019 traffic counts from Texas Department of Transportation. That makes it among the busiest non-highway roadways in the city, with daily traffic nearing one quarter the number of vehicles that travel on Interstate 35 at downtown.
Mike Trimble, the city of Austin’s Corridor Program Office director, said Lamar Boulevard will be able to handle a decrease in lanes and that the road’s facelift should improve traffic with intersection improvements at Riverside Drive, Toomey Road and Barton Springs Road.
“We don’t think this is going to cause any substantial reduction in capacity or ability to efficiently move through that roadway,” Trimble said.
Similar projects are planned for the the length of South Lamar Boulevard from Riverside Drive to Ben White Boulevard. All the project’s are being funded from 2016’s $720 million mobility bond.
DeNucci Constructors will do the work. The Austin-based contractor has gotten roughly $23.3 million in contracts over the years from the city of Austin, including work along Sabine Street, Waller Creek and several other road construction projects around downtown, according to city of Austin financial records.
Construction along this portion of South Lamar Boulevard likely will continue trough early 2022, Corridor Program Office spokeswoman Dea Crichton said.
Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen, whose district encompasses much of South Lamar Boulevard, said she is not worried about the road not being able to accommodate traffic and that she expects the roadway’s facelift to improve traffic flow.
“There are choke points all along it,” Kitchen said. “It will help with traffic flow and make it a street for people to walk and ride buses. It will make it easier for people to get to businesses along South Lamar.”
The series of projects all also…