As development projects and the accompanying traffic continue to change the face of our neighborhood, a few forward thinking neighbors decided to work proactively with city staff from different COA departments to start working on plans to mitigate the problems that come along with development. Shannon May and her husband Jeremy May worked with Gonzalo Comacho to organize a neighborhood meeting with representatives from many diverse departments from the City of Austin.
Last Saturday morning, representatives from COA Connectivity, Watershed Protection, Parks and Recreation, Bicycle and Pedestrian, Traffic Management, and Capital Metro met with concerned Northfield-area neighbors to talk about the city’s plans for projects that will affect this area of Austin. The meeting also attracted Councilmembers Chris Riley and Kathie Tovo who were very eager to participate in this dialog with neighbors. Councilmember Mike Martinez was not able to attend, but sent a representative on his behalf.
This was an amazing and unique opportunity, not only for neighbors who attended this meeting, but also for City Staff who seemed to enjoy the opportunity to work across departments to look at issues such as pedestrian amenities, traffic and parking control, and bicycle infrastructure. These issues are all highly related, but often different city departments handle different aspects of the same problems, and don’t have as many opportunities to collaborate as one might think.
For example, in our neighborhood, currently several streets have been torn up to replace the sewer system. One would think the city would take that opportunity to also address bicycle, pedestrian, and traffic problems along those streets — the city is rebuilding the street anyway, why not take care of some other problems that exist on that street at the same time? Unfortunately, the city doesn’t really work that way (although they know they should, and they certainly do try). Departments tend to work in silos, and collaboration across silos on projects is difficult.
However, the city staff who attended the Northfield meeting on Saturday were very enthusiastic about the opportunity for cross-departmental collaboration in our neighborhood. The excitement in the room was clear, and the opportunities for collaboration between neighbors and other city departments to make projects more comprehensive and integrated were obvious. We just need to get together and work with the city staff to use our tax dollars efficiently, and maximize opportunities for improvement. The city staff were very eager for this collaboration — the Northfield neighbors just need to do our part.
The neighbors who organized this meeting are very grateful to the people turned out for the City presentation event at Dayspring on Saturday, and they are very hopeful that even more people will attend the next meeting on February 15th.
The city staff described several projects that are in the planning stages right now including:
• Improvements to bike lanes along North Loop
• Substantial changes to the intersection at Ave. F and Koenig
• Substantial changes to Airport Boulevard
The meeting on February 15th will be an opportunity to gather input and ideas from Northfield neighbors about those projects as well as other desirable projects that the city SHOULD be considering. Northfield neighbors are strongly, strongly encouraged to attend the workshop on February 15th at Dayspring Chapel. With your input, we hope to push beneficial agenda items through to the city to have a positive impact on our neighborhood’s quality of life.