DPS on alert for dangerous drivers on Texas roads, offers holiday travel tips

From the Texas Department of Public Safety:

AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is urging drivers to help make the holidays safer by driving sober and using extra caution. In an effort to protect travelers on our roadways, DPS Troopers, as well as local law enforcement across the state, will conduct traffic patrols throughout the holiday weekends of Dec. 23 – 26 and Dec. 31 – Jan. 1, looking for drunk drivers, speeders, seat belt violators and other dangerous drivers.

“Impaired driving or reckless behavior on the road can turn holiday celebrations into tragedies, and these DPS patrols are designed to help save lives by identifying drivers who disregard the law and endanger others,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “By always driving sober, obeying traffic laws, and slowing down or moving over a lane when vehicles are stopped on the side of the road, Texans can help make our roads safer for everyone.”

During the eight-day Christmas/New Year holiday enforcement effort last year, DPS troopers made 466 DWI arrests. DPS enforcement efforts also resulted in 9,174 speeding citations, 893 seat belt/child safety seat citations, 320 fugitive arrests and 286 felony arrests during the enforcement period.

DPS offers the following additional tips for safe travel during the holidays:

  • Don’t drink and drive. Designate a driver or take a cab.
  • Slow down – especially in bad weather, construction areas and heavy traffic.
  • Eliminate distractions, including the use of mobile devices.
  • Buckle up everyone in the vehicle – it’s the law.
  • Slow down or move over for police, fire, EMS and Texas Department of Transportation vehicles and tow trucks that are stopped on the side of the road with emergency lights activated – it’s the law. Also, show the same courtesy to fellow drivers stopped along the road.
  • Don’t drive fatigued.
  • Drive defensively, as holiday travel may present additional challenges.
  • Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained and check the weather forecast before your trip begins.

Safety improvements at Cameron Road, U.S. 183 frontage to start next week

News release from the city of Austin:

The Austin Transportation Department (ATD) will continue carrying out the city of Austin’s Vision Zero Program when it begins constructing safety improvements at Cameron Road and the U.S. 183 frontage roads next week. This is the second of five high-priority intersections that ATD and City Council selected for construction funding in September 2015 as part of ATD’s Safety Improvement Program.

City contractors will begin rerouting traffic on Sunday, Oct. 16, and begin constructing the project on Monday, Oct. 17, with anticipated completion in mid-November 2016.

The goal of this project is to reduce crashes involving both pedestrians and vehicles at this intersection by installing enhanced pedestrian safety features and a new traffic signal warning device. Improvements (see illustration below) include:

  • Constructing a new right-turn channelized island (also known as a pedestrian refuge island) at the northeast corner of the intersection.
  • Lengthening the existing raised median on the north side of the intersection to provide a pedestrian refuge space in the middle of the crosswalk.
  • Adding high-visibility “continental” crosswalks (see an example here) to all pedestrian crossing points on the north side of the US-183 overpass.
  • Installing an advance warning flasher on the eastbound US-183 frontage road ahead of the traffic signal at Cameron Road. The flasher, which has been constructed and will be activated upon completion of the project, will flash when the signal ahead is red in order to alert drivers to slow down.
Illustration provided by the City of Austin
This image is for illustration only – it is not to scale and not for engineering purposes. Artwork provided by the City of Austin

There will be no daytime closures to the main lanes of the U.S. 183 frontage roads at any point during construction. However, toward the end of construction, there will be limited nighttime lane closures to allow for final paving and striping work.

Other closures associated with this project (schedule subject to change due to weather and unforeseen circumstances):

  • During the first phase of construction (approximately two weeks), the right-turn lane for the US-183 westbound frontage road will be closed. Cars will still be able to make right turns onto northbound Cameron Road from the US-183 westbound frontage road, but large trucks will not be permitted to turn right.
  • After the first phase is completed, there will be closures to two travel lanes (one northbound and one southbound) adjacent to the median on Cameron Road, north of US-183, for approximately two weeks.

This project, estimated to cost $268,000, is a continuation of ATD’s Safety Improvement Program, which helps carry out the City Council-adopted Vision Zero Action Plan. Vision Zero is Austin’s effort to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries for all road users.

As part of these initiatives, ATD began constructing long-term improvements in September 2016 at the first intersection, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the I-35 frontage roads, and has substantially completed that work. Prior to that, ATD carried out interim improvements at most of the five high-priority intersections.

The schedule for commencing long-term construction on the remaining three intersections is as follows (subject to change):

  • Lamar Boulevard and Rundberg Lane – November 2016
  • Lamar Boulevard and Parmer Lane – January 2017
  • Slaughter Lane and Manchaca Road – Spring 2017

ATD will continue to provide information about these intersections as they come nearer to construction.

Lanes on West 35th St. to close as Austin repaves at night, starting Oct. 9

From the City of Austin:

The City of Austin Public Works Department is scheduled to begin repaving West 35th St. between MoPac Boulevard (Loop1) and Jefferson Street on Oct. 9. This area is being repaved because the existing pavement is failing and in poor condition. The mill and overlay work involves grinding up the existing asphalt and base material, removing it, and then applying new pavement. The end result will be a much smoother driving surface. To shorten the duration of the project and to minimize disruptions to businesses and residences, most of the work will take place nightly between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The project is expected to be complete by the end of October.

Drivers can expect nightly lane reductions during this time with one lane remaining open in each direction. Drivers are encouraged to follow all traffic signs and to use caution while traveling near the work zone. Follow facebook.com/atxpublicworks for continued project updates.

See the affected area below:

City of Austin
City of Austin

What to Expect:

  • Nightly lane closures on W. 35th St between Mopac and Jefferson St. from Oct. 9 to Oct. 30
  • Cross streets and driveways closed intermittently when crews are working directly in front of the street or driveways
  • Possible uneven road surfaces in the construction zone
  • Crews and machinery around the project site, cones, and signs to help direct traffic

Disability rights group sues ride-hailing apps Get Me, Fare

A state disability rights group has sued the ride-hailing apps Get Me and Fare in federal court, arguing that because the apps only partially offer text-to-speech software, they are unusable for blind people and therefore in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For example, Austin resident and accessibility consultant Jeanine Lineback, who is blind, was able to set up an account but was not able to request a ride, the lawsuit says.

The National Federation of the Blind chapter in Texas is suing on behalf of Lineback and four other Austinites, arguing that they are entitled to damages as well as an injunction against the apps, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday. The injunction would require that the apps’ companies make these apps accessible to people who are blind.

Representatives with Get Me and Fare could not immediately be reached for comment.

All five plaintiffs regularly use taxis and would like to have the opportunity to use these ride-hailing apps, the suit says.

The reason ride-hailing app companies should take a particular interest in making their apps available to people who are blind should be obvious, the suit argues.

“Get Me and other similar taxi services are a critical transportation option for many blind individuals in Austin, Texas,” the suit says. “Due to distances between destinations and the limitations of public transportation and paratransit, many blind persons must use taxi services to travel from one place to another.”

The suit also argues that if these kinds of apps put traditional taxis out of business, people who are blind will have even fewer options to get around. The suit says “other competing taxi services” operating in Austin have incorporated this technology into their apps, but does not specify which ones.

Uber, which stopped operating in Austin in May after Austinites voted to keep the city’s laws regulating ride-hailing apps in place, said in a 2015 press release that its app is compatible with text-to-speech features on iPhones. The same press release said Uber has a consultant on its team to advocate for the blind and visually impaired.

Fasten, a ride-hailing app which still operates in Austin, advertises its “improvements for the visually impaired,” saying it makes “registering and adding a payment method much easier.”

The five plaintiffs and other blind individuals wrote to Get Me and Fare about this issue, “hoping to resolve this matter without litigation,” the suit says. But Get Me and Fare “failed to explain” whether they have “any concrete plans to make the software accessible.”

Text-to-speech technology is built into iPhones, the suit says.

“Companies like Apple and Google have already done part of the work to assist app developers in making their apps accessible, by publishing accessibility guidelines,” the suit says. “These show how to correctly identify and code the data fields in software applications in a way that enables the text-to-speech software to ‘read’ the information to blind users. It is not difficult for a mobile developer to properly code a mobile app so that it is accessible.”

Cesar Chavez closed after 18-wheeler clips I-35 overpass

Cesar Chavez has been shut down at interstate 35 after an 18 wheeler struck a bridge while passing under the interstate.
Cesar Chavez has been shut down at interstate 35 after an 18-wheeler struck a bridge while passing under the interstate. Photo by Mark D. Wilson/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

By Mark D. Wilson

Cesar Chavez Street near downtown has been completely shut down at Interstate 35 after an 18-wheeler damaged the overpass while traveling under the highway.
Austin police at the scene said iron girders sticking out from the trucks trailer hit the beams of the overpass, denting the underside of the overpass.

No injuries were reported in the crash, but authorities have stopped the rig to inspect any damage.

I-35 is still open but traffic on Cesar Chavez is backed up all the way to South Congress Avenue and all eastbound traffic is being redirected to southbound I-35. Westbound traffic is going to northbound I-35.

Police ID woman, 32, killed in motorcycle crash on Monday in Southwest Austin

By Mark D. Wilson

A woman who died in a motorcycle crash on Monday evening has been identified as 32-year-old Jessica Port.

According to a preliminary police investigation, Port was headed east in the 6800 block of Southwest Parkway near Oak Hill around 5:45 p.m. when she slammed into a 2009 Chevrolet van that turned left in front of her onto a private drive.

Port was taken to a hospital where she died shortly after arrival, police said.

Investigators said alcohol was not a factor in the crash but authorities are still looking into the circumstances of the crash.

Port is the 52nd person to die in a crash in Austin this year, police said.

Anyone with information on the wreck is asked to call the Austin police Vehicular Homicide Unit at 512-974-5549.

Traffic shifts on Colorado and Eighth Street beginning Sunday, July 31

From the City of Austin Public Works Department:

(City of Austin Public Works Department)
(City of Austin Public Works Department)

Beginning Sunday, July 31, the City’s contractor will move work to the north side of the Eighth and Colorado Street intersection. Eighth Street will be reduced to one westbound lane. Colorado Street will also be reduced to one southbound lane from Eighth Street to Tenth Street. These lane closures are necessary for the installation of new storm drain, water and wastewater lines, full depth street reconstruction, wider sidewalks, and curb and gutter. Once complete, the City’s contractor will continue working north to Tenth Street. This portion of work is expected to be complete in October 2016. At that time, the City’s contractor is expected to move to the west side of Colorado Street, beginning in November 2016.

Motorists are asked to use caution and be extra alert in the work zone during this time.

The City will provide updates to inform the public of any additional closures or upcoming changes to traffic controls related to this project. More information about this project can be found on the City of Austin Public Works website.

Austin police make 33 DWI arrests during ROT Rally weekend crackdown

From the Austin Police Department:

The ROT Rally No Refusal Initiative took place beginning at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 10, 2016 and lasted through 5 a.m. on Sunday, June 12, 2016.

Consent Blood Samples= 6
Blood Search Warrants= 15
Consent Breath Samples= 12
Total DWI Arrests=  33

Class A Misd DWI (with prior conviction) = 4
Class A Misd (breath sample over .15) = 4
Felony DWI (2 or more prior convictions) = 1
Felony DWI Child Passenger = 1
Intoxication Assault= 1

The Austin Police Department is continuously focused on preventing lives from being lost on the streets, highways and waterways of Austin. The department is dedicated to making the roadways and waterways of Austin safe for residents and visitors through education and enforcement.

Weekend paving work to cause lane closures on NB MoPac this weekend

From the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority:

Asphalt paving work at the northbound MoPac bridge over the Union Pacific railroad crossing by the Domain and the northbound MoPac bridge over the Capital Metro Red Line by St. David’s North Austin Medical Center is requiring lane closures and ramp closures between Braker Lane and Parmer Lane the weekend of March 18th to 21st.

The work will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, March 18th, with the closure of all of the entrance ramps to northbound MoPac between Braker Lane and Parmer Lane. After 10:00 p.m. all of the northbound exit ramps between Braker Lane and Parmer Lane will also be closed. The entrance and exit ramps will remain closed the entire weekend. Detour routes will be in place. Click here to see maps of the construction and detours.

There will also be lane closures on northbound MoPac between Braker Lane and Parmer to accommodate this work. Starting at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, March 18th, the center and left lane of northbound MoPac will be closed. Then, at 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning, March 19th, the closure will switch to just the right lane. Finally, after 10:00 p.m. Sunday, March 20th, the lane closure will switch back the center and left lane.

All of the closures should end no later than 5:00 a.m., Monday morning, March 21st.

These closures may cause travel delays at certain peak travel periods. Drivers should consider alternate routes or allow extra time if they plan to be in this area over the weekend.

Weather conditions or other factors could lead to changes in the lane closure plan including the times when specific closures occur. There is also the possibility that all work could be rescheduled if conditions warrant.