We Can All Agree That…

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Diane and I are with our girls this week and it doesn’t get any better than that.  We hope you’re having a wonderful week as well.

If your family is like mine, we all take time during our Thanksgiving dinner first to express our gratitude for the blessings we enjoy. And then the family debates begin:  politics, boyfriends, the Dallas Cowboys’ personnel decisions, more politics – nothing is out of bounds!  But, there is one thing on which we’ll all agree this year: Traffic on IH-35 in downtown Austin is the worst.

As in, literally the worst. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute says IH-35 through downtown Austin is the most congested roadway in Texas, and we’re a pretty big state. We’re not the worst in the country, though. IH-35 in Austin is only the ninth-worst Thanksgiving traffic in the country according to  Google maps and the 10th-worst bottleneck in the country according to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. By any measure, we’ve got a problem aching for solutions.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that we all agree that we need to do something about it. If congestion on IH-35 is the biggest, hairiest mobility problem we have in Austin, the shared community consensus that we need to deal with it is a blessing. There are many things people in Austin disagree on; this is not one of them.

Great cities do big things, and in the coming weeks and months you’re going to hear about ways to get traffic on IH-35 moving. Agreeing that we need to do something is an important step, but it’s only a step.

We’re already making some progress on IH-35. Last week I voted on CAMPO for much-needed improvements along IH-35 at Oltorf and at 51st Street. And I have challenged Austin businesses to reduce their employees’ commutes by 20% during peak hours, something we’ve already accomplished here at City Hall.  Senator Watson is providing important leadership at the State level even as I write.

These efforts, while useful, will not by themselves fix the traffic problem on IH-35 in Austin, but there is a silver lining. With all the things that your family might debate over Thanksgiving dinner, at least we can all agree that traffic on IH-35 has gotten so bad that we really do need to do something about it.  So, be thankful and pass the pie.