Several weeks ago, we asked Councilmember Alison Alter's office to help us respond to neighborhood concerns about how our streets might be impacted by the Autin Strategic Mobility Plan. Here is a response from Kurt Cadena-Mitchell in her office.
Thank you for your email to our office about the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan which was first adopted in 2019. The ASMP amendment process is proposing technical changes to align with existing City documents, discussed below. The majority of the proposed technical changes do not reflect any planned projects. Additionally, when there is a project, projects go through the project development process to define the required right of way needed for the project and include their own public engagement process.
The information below is meant to answer some of the basic questions we’ve received from your neighborhood. These planning processes are often highly technical, so we understand why they may have raised concerns. This reflects our best efforts to make the information as digestible as possible and to address your concerns.
Many have written to us concerned that the ASMP will mean the City will take additional land from their lot. The goal of the ASMP is to ensure that if private redevelopment ever takes place in the future, new, higher-intensity development provides enough space to provide foundational public goods and mobility services (e.g., sidewalks, on-street parking, street trees, etc.). Although the City doesn’t plan to acquire land on all the streets where sidewalks are absent, for example, we want to be able to take advantage of a redevelopment opportunity if it ever arises; this would be the best opportunity for space to be preserved for a mobility facility that doesn’t exist now.
However, only new development or intensive redevelopment triggers a dedication of right of way (referred to as Dedication of Right of Way in the Land Development Code) - Single-Family home remodels/developments going through the Residential Review process do not require right of way dedication unless going through the Subdivision process. So, the trigger for dedicating additional land would not happen in any circumstance where an existing single-family lot was redeveloped or rebuilt as an existing single-family lot.
The only instance where right of way dedication would be triggered is if an existing single-family lot went through a process to become more intense such as development into commercial uses (which is not currently allowed on residential lots but it might be true for other areas of town where the ASMP is being updated for a commercial street) or if a single-family lot subdivides into multiple lots with multiple units. This is largely not possible in your neighborhood due to site area requirements, deed restrictions, and zoning rules.
So, while the requirement for additional right of way is theoretically possible on a residential street in a unique circumstance of a new subdivision development of an existing lot, no individual single family lot with a single family home on it would suddenly be required to dedicate additional right-of-way land to the City. More importantly, nothing about the ASMP or roadway changes grant new rights to allow more intensive development not currently allowed under your existing zoning conditions.
While updates to the Street Network and Transportation Criteria Manual (TCM) list an expanded ROW for many streets, it does not mean immediate changes are occurring. Rather, the Street Network provides a starting point for required right of way to preserve space if future conditions are met, such as if a commercial street is redeveloped. If you see changes on a residential street, the listing of roadway width is communicating the ideal road width for the type of traffic and traffic infrastructure that is desirable under ideal conditions for that roadway type.
The street cross sections displayed in the Street Network presentation display typical ideal cross sections, but there are cases where compact designs are necessary based on real world constraints, the needs of the street, and context. When there isn’t enough space to allow for a compact design, staff will work on prioritizing the street elements based on context. It is important to remember that these documents apply to the entire city, and there are many places across Austin that do not have established neighborhoods and curb lines, and new development might allow the acquisition of right of way to enable the full design envisioned for these streets. In other situations there are several tools in the TCM that can be used to help design a safe and functional street.
We do not have plans or projects to alter the curb lines of established streets in neighborhoods, and they are not expected to change with the reclassification of these streets.
The 2014 Bicycle Plan, the Transportation Criteria Manual, and the ASMP
Some of the changes to roadways are related to the 2014 Bicycle Plan. In the 2014 Bicycle Plan, many neighborhood streets were identified to have a bike lane. The new Transportation Criteria Manual (TCM) cross sections, which were adopted in 2021 do not include a bike lane in either of the two cross sections for a Level 1 Street. Many of these neighborhood streets were classified incorrectly as Level 1 Streets in the original ASMP. Therefore, we are proposing to reclassify them as Level 2 Streets, which is the lowest street level that has a bike lane.
It is critical to note that all of these changes are technical reclassifications, and it is not indicative of a project to expand (or narrow) the established right of way for those streets. We are aligning the ASMP Street Levels across adopted City plans identifying preferred facilities for that street.
Specific D10 streets with frequently asked questions
Greystone and Valburn were proposed to be reclassified as a Level 2 street because they were identified in the 2014 Bicycle Plan for a Buffered Bike Lane and Bike Lane, respectively. Based on the feedback received, staff is looking more closely at these streets and it’s unlikely they will end up being reclassified because the Bicycle Plan is dated and an increase in right-of-way is unlikely to ever materialize because those streets are unlikely to see the type of increased development (ie something more intense than the existing single-family style of development) that would trigger such an action.
Mesa is proposed to be reclassified for a small segment between Steck and Spicewood to Level 3 to align with the adopted TCM cross section for a two-lane divided roadway.
Each of these streets was incorrectly classified in the adopted Street Network based on the adopted TCM.
Again, the alignment of the ASMP and the 2014 Bicycle Plan does not indicate a planned project or funding for a planned project on these streets, it merely aligns the two plans. Additionally, the alignment of these plans for a residential street does not empower the City to take additional right of way and additional right of way would only occur on a commercial street if a commercial property owner chose to pursue a development on their property that was a more intensive redevelopment than what exists today.
We hope this resolves concerns you may have about right of way dedication in your neighborhood. Please let us know if you have additional questions. As the ASMP continues through the amendment process additional information and updated drafts of the proposed amendments will be published on the AustinTexas.gov/ASMP website with opportunities to provide comments. The second round of public comments will begin in March.
Chief of Staff
Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter, District 10