Over the next several months, Austin drivers will start seeing posted signs alerting them to reduced speed limits on certain residential and urban core streets.
The reductions, aimed at improving traffic safety, were unanimously approved by the City Council earlier this month.
Data collected by the Vision Zero program showed that speeding is the leading cause of a quarter of deadly traffic crashes, making it one of the top four behaviors that contribute to most traffic deaths in Austin, along with failure to yield, distraction and intoxication. In 2018, 74 people died on Austin roads.
“If you drive more slowly, you are better equipped to respond to conditions, and the more people can pay attention to their driving the safer everybody will be,” said Council Member Leslie Pool, whose District 7 in North Austin includes high-traffic roads such as MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1), Interstate 35 and Parmer Lane. “As our city has grown, we are not really a small town anymore, and we’ve seen an uptick in vehicle accidents, collisions and conflicts, and that’s preventable.”
Traffic patterns and injuries during the coronavirus pandemic indicate that speeding remains an issue, even while average traffic volumes are down about 50% from early this year. Overall crashes are only down about 20% and Austin has seen roughly a 15% increase in serious injuries, according to the city’s Transportation Department.
“One takeaway from this is that people who continue to drive seem to be getting into serious car crashes more frequently, which is likely tied to many drivers choosing to go at faster speeds than normal,” Transportation Department spokeswoman Susanne Harm said.
The planned changes are based on a yearlong engineering study of speed limits on city roads conducted by the city’s traffic engineer. The changes will affect three kinds of roads:
• Neighborhood streets — mainly residential and typically about 36 feet wide or narrower — which will have posted speed limits of 25 mph.
Proposed Austin speed limit changes
The city of Austin has posted online an interactive map of proposed changes to speed limits at: atxne.ws/austin-speed-limit-changes. For more information about the proposed speed limit changes or the map please email email@example.com or visit the Speed Management Program website at austintexas.gov/department/ speed-management.
Some neighborhood streets wider than 36 feet also will have reduced posted speed limits.
• High-capacity urban core roads, which are bounded by U.S. 183, Texas 71, and MoPac Boulevard, will be posted at 35 mph or less, with a few exceptions. Such roads include portions of Lamar Boulevard in Central Austin, parts of Menchaca Road in South Austin or Springdale Road in East Austin.
• Downtown streets, including most streets within the area bounded by North Lamar Boulevard, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, I-35 and Lady Bird Lake will be posted at 25 mph, while Guadalupe and Lavaca streets, MLK, 15th and Cesar Chavez streets and Lamar will be posted at 30 mph.
The majority of changes will be on neighborhood streets where the speed limit will change from 30 mph to 25 mph. However, a number of streets with higher speed limits will be reduced by 5 or 10 mph.
The city also will revamp some roads by narrowing lane widths or reassigning portions of the street for biking or parking as a way to encourage slower driving. The city has published an interactive map that shows where speed limit changes will occur.