If you ask practically any Austin resident what is the number one concern, the answer is a unanimous “traffic”. An editorial in the American-Statesman made the point that “traffic congestion will increase in Austin, and our community needs a tech solution to solve it.” Congestion is such a sore point with drivers, and multiple resources are needed to address it. This is where the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority steps in.
The Mobility Authority builds solutions. The completion of the 183A Toll road in Cedar Park and Leander has brought growth to the area, which has transformed the communities. The achievement of the U.S. 290 toll road that unites Austin and Manor has tripled the capacity of the highway. These are great solutions. The best is seemingly yet to come.
The Mobility Authority is now working on the new MoPac Express Lanes, which will implement the latest in technology to co-ordinate and manage traffic flow. Of course, nothing will entirely eliminate congestion on the highways and by-ways. But the upcoming changes will make a difference.
Often, the answer to a problem is not a new or updated road, but technological improvements. Future projects are in the works to make “smart roads.” Fiber lines are planned to be imbedded along the 183 South project. This is in anticipation of the days when our vehicles will have dialogue with the roadway. This is also in preparation for the days when “driverless cars” are seen on our roadways. This sort of technology could also single out a vehicle going the wrong way on a highway or an exit ramp. Partnering with Metropia will create a phone app for drivers that will provide some alternative routes for drivers in real time. Collaborating with Carma will bring a carpooling app. The high number of cars with single riders is equal to 900,000 empty car seats each day. Carpooling can be a great improvement in the congestion.
The Statesman also suggested that Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s ideas be adopted, and the Mobility Authority is borrowing quite a few. The Mobility Authority is also creating Shared Use Paths. These are dedicated pedestrian and bicycle paths that will tie in to trails that already exist. One other concern for the congestion is the high number of minor breakdowns along the busy roadways. The Mobility Authority came up with a solution. The Highway Emergency Response Operator (HERO) program provides free assistance to help motorists with their minor concerns. Mike Heiligenstein points that the need is to focus on roads, and improve the capacity for buses. There may actually be a future need for 12 lanes of traffic on U.S. Highway 183 and State Highway 290, both in Austin.
And if you’re wondering why Mike Heiligenstein sounds like a traffic expert for Austin, that’s because he is. He is the Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. The agency was created in 2002 to provide answers to congestion problems and Mike stepped on board with them from the beginning. The Mobility Authority has in motion carefully-planned designs that will meet the current and future needs of traffic in Austin. Mike is currently the President of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association. Mike also serves on the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s advisory board.
Mike’s experience with traffic and congestion concerns resulted from his 23 years as a public official with Williamson County. Dealing with those issues helped him gain insight for dealing with groups that deal with chronic transportation issues. Mike and the Mobility Authority are creating options to help drivers and riders get to their destinations in a safe, secure manner.