by Sebastian Wren
Over the past 10 years, Northfield has been evolving into a very cool neighborhood with lots of things to do and see. More and more people are moving here, more and more developments are being built to accommodate greater demand for housing in the area, and more and more shops, bars, restaurants, pubs, and other destinations are attracting visitors to the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, wherever people go, they tend to bring their cars. While many of us love being walking distance from attractions such as Drink.Well, The Tigress, Foreign & Domestic, Epoch Coffee, Goodwill, Half-Price Books, Titaya’s, Quality Seafood, and Kome Sushi, other people prefer to drive to those destinations.
And in so doing, they create a problem — Traffic. It is the price we pay for living in such a cool neighborhood. We Northfielders get to walk or ride our bikes around to all these great amenities and hot-spots, but we can’t keep the riff-raff and interlopers from driving around our neighborhood and spoiling all of our fun.
However, if we work together and work with the city, we might be able to do something to mitigate the worst effects of traffic — maybe calm it down and make it a little safer. Over the years, there are a few traffic “hot spots” in our neighborhood that people have historically complained about. Yes, traffic everywhere in the neighborhood is bad, but there are a few spots that are particularly bad. In order from “Huge Problem” to “Medium Problem,” they are:
#1: Avenue F from Koenig to 53rd Street — There are no stop signs or speed abatement along the entire length of the street. Considering it is a residential street, the traffic volume combined with very high rates of traffic speed are extremely dangerous. It is also a bus route, causing “bottle necks” and jams. There have been many pets killed, damage to property, etc. This will only get worse now that a new apartment complex is being built at the corner of Koenig and Ave. F. That large apartment complex is expected to have only one entrance/exit for their parking garage, and believe it or not, it will be on Ave. F
#2: 51st Street from Duval to Guadalupe — Again, there are very high rates of traffic speed along this street with cars speeding in excess of 50 miles per hour. There is poor visibility around the “serpentine” in the road (west of Ave. F). It is very dangerous for bicycle and pedestrian crossing. And again, this will only get worse now that there is a very large apartment complex under development on 51st with only ONE entrance/exit on 51st Street. (Do you get the feeling that City Planners are a little sadistic?)
#3: All streets 1 block north and south of 53rd Street — High volumes of on-street parking in evenings combined with many pedestrians make the streets confusing and dangerous. Cars trolling around, looking for parking spaces (making u-turns / unorthodox maneuvers) often fail to see pedestrians who are forced to walk in the streets (because, of course, there are no sidewalks).
#4: Chesterfield from 56th Street to North Loop — There is a very large volume of pedestrian traffic along this street with no sidewalk. The situation was improved with the stripe in the street and one-side parking, but the street is still not satisfactory. The City reversed the stop sign at Chesterfield and Nelray about 8 years ago, but that intersection is still confusing and dangerous.
#5: 56th and Duval — There are no stop signs nor any speed abatement on either street from 53rd and Duval to 56th and Ave. F, so there is frequent “cut-through” traffic in both directions at very high rates of speed.
#6: Serpentine on Guadalupe north of Nelray — This is low on the list, but it may be the most deadly. There are very high volumes of traffic — usually traveling at high rates of speed — along Guadalupe, and with the “blind curve” serpentine in the road near Nelray, you sometimes have to run to make it across the street without landing on somebody’s hood. Try pushing a stroller across Guadalupe at Nelray at rush hour — I dare you.
#7: Leralynn — There have been a few complaints about traffic volume and speed on Leralynn, mostly during during rush hour, and of course there is a lot of on-street parking near Epoch Coffee. (And of course, there are no sidewalks!) Occasionally some speeding idiot runs over one of our neighborhood Guinea Hens, which is a tragedy and an insult to our neighborhood icons. (Seriously, it’s a sucky street, and something should be done about it.)
Again, there are other bad streets and awful traffic problems in the neighborhood, but these are some of the worst. If we work together to work with the city, we might be able to get something done about some of these “worst offenders.” Chesterfield and Leralynn are currently under construction (replacing sewer line) so, since they are already torn up, the city could easily improve them as they rebuild those streets. With new apartment complexes about to open on Ave. F and on 51st Street, the city should install traffic-calming measures to improve the safety on those streets.
There are opportunities right now to fix some big problems in our neighborhood if we all work together. A few Northfield neighbors are working with the city to start discussing future plans that might create opportunities for improving traffic. The conversation will begin at a meeting at Dayspring Chapel (55th and Ave. G) at 9:00 a.m. on January 25th.
This first meeting will be a chance for representatives from the City of Austin to describe plans that might affect our neighborhood. Following that, another meeting will be planned to allow Northfield residents to come and provide input and ideas for improving traffic.
To stay informed and get involved, please attend the meeting on the 25th, and watch this space for updates about future meetings and activities.