Last month we celebrated Earth Day, a time to remember the importance of protecting our environment, and a time to give thanks for the bountiful natural resources entrusted to us as Central Texans. We have a lot to be grateful for. We live in the midst of breathtakingly beautiful settings of green spaces and clean waters.
At the Mobility Authority, our work is crucial to maintaining our region’s vibrancy and economic vitality. Balancing the need for new infrastructure with protecting the natural resources that make us proud to call Central Texas home is a responsibility we do not take lightly. We see mobility and sustainability as simultaneous, priority goals and as such, we have implemented a number of initiatives to encourage a new way of thinking about harmonizing development and the environment. Sometimes those initiatives involve adding capacity to our roadways. Sometimes, they involve optimizing the capacity we already have and challenging ourselves to adopt new ways of thinking about sustainability in transportation.
183 South: Preserving and Protecting our Heritage
There is a great deal of history and natural beauty along the 183 corridor. Preserving that unique regional identity was extremely important during the planning process for the 183 South Expressway Project, which broke ground earlier this month. Landscaping is a huge part of this eight-mile mobility improvement project, which will triple capacity on US 183 between US 290 and SH 71, while giving each neighborhood a look & feel that matches the community’s cultural values and aesthetic preferences.
Through community outreach and throughout the comprehensive approach to design known as Context Sensitive Solutions, we learned that protection of large oak trees within the project corridor was important to the community. So the Mobility Authority incentivized the project team to protect and preserve the large live oak trees located within the project limits near Callahan’s General Store. To help accomplish this, the Mobility Authority invited tree preservation groups and representatives from the City of Austin, the Texas Department of Transportation, and additional stakeholder groups to outline a comprehensive set of Best Management Practices (BMPs), which describe how the large oak trees are to be protected before and during construction. The Mobility Authority has also partnered with Tree Folks to promote maintenance and expansion of the urban tree canopy in Austin while planting thousands of new trees along the corridor.
Keep Austin Beautiful Clean Sweep: Celebrating our City
The Mobility Authority was a proud sponsor of the 2016 Keep Austin Beautiful Clean Sweep, a city-wide service day spanning more than 130 sites throughout Austin and resulting in more 29 tons of trash removed. On Saturday, April 9 our 183 South Project team rolled up their sleeves and got to work, helping to beautify our city. Our team of 19 volunteers collected more than 240 pounds of trash and recycling at two locations in east Austin: the Walnut Creek Trail behind the YMCA on Ed Bluestein Blvd. and the Winn Elementary School yard. It was an honor and a privilege to join our community in this effort to enhance a city we are all proud to call home.
The Green Mobility Challenge was a sustainable design competition held in 2011 that challenged Texas’ most creative landscape architects, planners, and engineers to propose better ways of constructing, operating and maintaining future transportation projects. Many elements included in this competition are consistent with Greenroads®, an independent third party rating system for sustainability in transportation infrastructure.
By challenging teams to identify new methods, new materials and new ways of thinking, the Mobility Authority hopes to ensure transportation facilities in Central Texas are implemented and operated in way that is environmentally responsible. After all, we live and work here too.
GreenRoads: Sustainability in Transportation
We’ve all seen the trend toward green buildings in recent years, a practice that has rapidly expanded around the world. So why not green roads? Those in the architecture industry follow the LEED® ratings system for green buildings. For the transportation industry, we have our own barometer, called Greenroads®, the most widely used transportation sustainability rating system used worldwide.
At the Mobility Authority, sustainability is one of our core values. What better way to demonstrate our commitment than to register our biggest project yet, the 183 South Expressway Project, as a Greenroads® pilot project? We took what we learned from the Green Mobility Challenge and applied those sustainable design principles to this project. Greenroads®, an independent, third party rating system, will consider the project for certification by evaluating the design and construction based on a set of criteria, and assigning a rating to truly gauge environmental responsibility. As we further pursue this certification, we will continue to look for ways to incorporate sustainable elements into all our projects. Learn more about Greenroads® here.
The Mobility Authority is pleased to report that Central Texas commuters made the most of a ground-breaking Carma Carpooling pilot program last year! Carma Carpooling is a real-time smartphone app that pairs people with similar commute routes and schedules to share the ride. Carma allows you to set up trips on the fly or in advance, while automatically sharing the cost of driving with each occupant in the vehicle.
June 2015 marked the conclusion of a two-year federally-funded pilot program with Carma Austin that offered exclusive toll reimbursements on 183A and 290 Expressway to encourage commuters to buddy-up during their drive to and from work along toll roads.
Central Texans shared over 193,000 carpool miles between February 2014 and June 2015. In addition to filling empty car seats and toll bill savings, more than 9,200 gallons of gas were saved and nearly 180,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions avoided! Click here for more information on the program’s success. It’s just one more way we are working to maximize existing capacity on our region’s roadways.