WPNPCT minutes 04.11.16
PRESENT: Conor Kenny, Scooter Cheatham, Steve Speir, Margi Bienemann, Brian Graham, Elaine Bohls-Graham, David E. Golden, Walter Olenick, Rodney Ahart, Carol Kent, Ami Davis, Stafford Gunning.
ABSENT: Kenny Gaston-Kilgore (excused), Art Turner (illness).
GUESTS: Diane Rice, Jesse Adler, Laura Dierenfield, Lane Hicks, Jaime Guerra, Rodney Ahart, Margaret Dahl, Rick Krivoniak, Linda Ceremim (sp), Mike Polacheck.
Conor Kenny, chair of the WPNPCT, determined a quorum present and called the meeting to order. Minutes from the 3-11-16 meeting were distributed. Brian Graham made motion to approve, seconded by Stafford Gunning. Minutes approved by voice vote.
Conor suggested that any discussion of Abdul Patel’s request for contact team support for his plans to buy 6303 Cameron Road (Mark’s American Car Care Center in Reagan Square) be discussed at the end of the meeting. This suggestion met with CT approval.
The focus of tonight’s meeting featured two employees from the City of Austin Transportation Department who discussed what’s in the transportation budget pipeline now and what transportation issues will affect our neighborhood in the future.
Laura Dierenfield, a manager with the Transportation Department, spoke first. She focused on “what we have completed, what we have planned and our budget priorities.” She said a primary department goal is to emphasize walking and bicycling options with every project.
She said the majority of requests for transportation solutions go to the city engineer assigned to each neighborhood and that Windsor Park is fortunate to have two engineers assigned since it is split between two councilmember districts (Casar and Houston).
She said that at this point, unless additional funding can be found, any major changes related to the traffic on Berkman would likely be limited to restriping to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety
Dierenfield said the best practice is to put new blacktop down and then restripe in order to create new left turn lanes and better bike lanes to create more predictability for both drivers and bikers. New sidewalks are a high priority but budget restraints prevent more being built as the average cost is $100 a foot.
She said the projected costs for needed new sidewalks is currently $1 billion and that the city is now spending between $5 to $10 million a year on sidewalks. But she said money for new sidewalks can “sometimes be found in other program budgets if it makes sense.”
Parking and new signage are also part of their responsibility. All changes need to be vetted by the community and they are now in the middle of a number of citywide meetings through May 8 to get feedback.
Regarding Berkman she said Greg Casar requested funding for Berkman improvements under the one fourth cent set aside for general transit improvements. Berkman was included and received $60,000 in funding for improvements.
A pedestrian bike path along Belfast to Mueller Development was the other request. It is now included in the Bicycle Master Plan.
Several people indicated their support for a pedestrian-bike path that would pass through the Our Lady Maronite Church property that sits on the corner off E. 51st and Berkman but no meetings have been held with the church about this possibility.
Conor indicated his support to fund a variation of a hybrid pedestrian beacon to be placed at Berkman and Rogge or at Berkman at Greenbrook Parkway where you enter the softball fields at Bartholomew Park. The warning beacon was described as being similar to one that is now up at Rosewood and Angelina. Cost will be approximately $15,000 for the beacon.
Dierenfield said a feasibility study would have to be done on any proposal we put forward but she liked the idea. She said one purpose of the mobility survey currently underway is to gauge support for another bond issue.
Brian Graham said if city officials want support for new bond money for highway improvements they had had better “include money for the changes that Windsor Park residents want done along E.51st and along Belfast and Berkman.”
Stafford Gunning asked if the city has numerical projections for traffic increases on Berkman caused by the coming opening of the Alamo Draft House theaters. He said he sees a need for $8 to $10 million in improvements along Berkman just to keep traffic flowing.
Conor agreed we need hard current figures that measure the current daily traffic on these streets. He said these need to be posted on the WP and contact team web sites to help people make suggestions and to draw attention to our safety concerns.
Diane Rice with Austin Transportation then spoke. She said the current Sidewalk Master Plan was completed in 2009. Each need is given a rank ranging from very low to very high. Said they spent from $5-10 million a year on new sidewalks but “it’s just a drop in the bucket when you have a billion dollar budget need.”
Conor and Stafford indicated they want the contact team to play a role in steering WP residents toward accurate transportation information and realistic options. The CT members all said they are tired of getting leftovers from the city budget.
Conor moved to consider a motion to have him create a list of ways in which WP residents can get involved in these decisions and get engaged in the process. These ideas will be circulated to the web and to all CT members. This will be discussed at the Next meeting in May. The motion was seconded by Elaine and passed.
A new CT member: Conor then nominated Jamie Guerra for CT membership. Guerra said he and his family have lived in WP since 2008, works at UT and lives on Berkshire. He was approved by an 11-0 vote by secret ballot.