Switching lanes

New plan to improve the Drag could bring major changes to campus

New plan to improve the Drag could bring major changes to campus

The Drag guadalupe street austin
Upgrades to the Drag could mean big changes to campus-area traffic. Wikimedia Commons

Traveling along the Drag adjacent to the University of Texas campus can be, well, a drag, thanks to the heavy traffic. In fact, city officials label it one of the most congested traffic corridors in Austin.

A new plan from the Austin Transportation Department is designed to make Guadalupe Street less of a pain for motorists, bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians. The plan focuses on the one-mile stretch of Guadalupe Street running from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to West 29th Street; the most significant change would be carving out two lanes on Guadalupe for buses rather than cars.

With no room for expansion of that section of Guadalupe — it’s sandwiched between the UT campus and a row of businesses — traffic planners propose emphasizing improvements for bus riders, cyclists, and pedestrians, while de-emphasizing changes that would accommodate drivers.

Under that scenario, the outer lane in each direction along Guadalupe would be converted into a bus-only lane. Street parking running along the west side of the Drag would be removed to make way for an expanded sidewalk and bicycle line on the east side — a move opposed by many businesses along the corridor. Capital Metro, the city’s transit agency, says eliminating the on-street parking would make it easier for buses to navigate the busy street.

An analysis by Capital Metro indicates this arrangement would cut as many as three minutes in travel time for buses, and predicts the time savings alone would attract 218,000 new riders per year. Currently, Cap Metro operates 20 bus routes through the Guadalupe corridor.

To ease the impact of steering cars away from Guadalupe, the plan envisions switching Nueces Street north of 24th Street to a two-way street instead of one-way street, thus funneling local traffic through West Campus and away from Guadalupe.

In addition, a southbound bicycle lane would be created on Nueces, and a northbound bicycle lane would be installed on Hemphill Park. Southbound cyclists would use a shared lane.

On top of that, 24th Street from North Lamar Boulevard to Guadalupe would be reconfigured from a four-lane undivided road to a three-lane road with a two-way lane for left turns and an eastbound bicycle lane.

City officials estimate it would cost $33.7 million to make the proposed adjustments along and around the Drag.

At this point, the Guadalupe plan remains preliminary. The Austin City Council is expected to review the proposal next spring.