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Author Topic: Where's the Loop? A closer look at why Austin does not have a beltway  (Read 1291 times)


Bobby5280

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The news article didn't cover all the reasons why Austin doesn't have a traditional freeway loop.

Obviously, Austin is famous for having local political conditions that make building super highways very difficult. OTOH, a lot of new freeways and toll roads have been built in the Austin area since the mid-1980's. Significant projects (like the US-183 expansion) are under construction.

Geography plays as much a role as any on why Austin doesn't have a loop highway. The zone immediately to the West of Austin and the MoPac is the biggest problem. You have Lake Travis, all those hills, not to mention a lot of upper income homes out there in those areas. It's about impossible to plow one half of a super highway loop through any of that.

And then the direction of development doesn't really support a standard loop. Much of the growth is moving parallel to I-35. The main routes thru Austin (I-35, US-290, US-183, TX-71) need to be improved to Interstate quality thru Austin and as far outside the city's outskirts as possible. Connector routes like TX-45 help move traffic between those main routes.
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The Ghostbuster

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Even when the "beltway" is completed, Austin isn't gunning for a 3 digit Interstate designation, are they?
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CtrlAltDel

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Quote from: www.kvue.com
Where's the Loop?

The Loop is in Chicago.

(I'll show myself out now.)
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MaxConcrete

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That news report has some nice historical info. And it also seemed to have pro-highway bias, since it didn't include perspective from environmental interests that oppose any and all road improvements in the Austin area.

The news report does not mention that SH 45 was originally proposed to go around the west side of Austin. I remember seeing a proposed alignment in a report from the 1970s or 1980s while doing some library searches back in the 1990s. My memory is dim, but I seem to recall it generally followed a path near Quinlan Park road.

Of course, the short section of SH 45 in southwest Austin was built. I was a student at UT-Austin in 1989-90, and I took my bicycle to the construction zone and rode through it. I seem to recall there were some delays in opening the road due to concerns about contaminated runoff water, and that section of SH 45 was open sometime in the early 1990s.

For building any kind of loop in west Austin, I think the window of opportunity closed a long time ago. The only possible option is to upgrade RR620, and I don't think the long term regional plan calls for much improvement to 620, so I don't think much will ever happen.

On a more positive note, TxDOT is moving forward with plans to remove all traffic signals on Loop 360. In Austin, that's a major victory.

kphoger

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Quote from: www.kvue.com
Where's the Loop?

The Loop is in Chicago.

 :clap:  We were all thinking it anyway.
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thisdj78

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On a more positive note, TxDOT is moving forward with plans to remove all traffic signals on Loop 360. In Austin, that's a major victory.

Does that include the section between Mopac and 290/Lamar? If so, that would create a loop with 183 being completed on the east side. Only thing needed would be direct connectors at 360 and 183, which there looks to be some ROW there for it.
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MaxConcrete

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Does that include the section between Mopac and 290/Lamar? If so, that would create a loop with 183 being completed on the east side. Only thing needed would be direct connectors at 360 and 183, which there looks to be some ROW there for it.

http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot/get-involved/aus/loop360/042319-loop-360-fact-sheet.pdf
http://www.loop360project.com/

To answer your question: the improvement program does not appear to include the section between Loop 1 and US 290 on the south end. There is one traffic signal in that section for northbound only.

The project also appears to not include any improvements at the Loop 360/US 183 on the north end, and at the Loop 360/Loop 1 intersection at the south end. I agree that direct connectors are needed, because those two intersections will likely become huge traffic bottlenecks when all the traffic signals on Loop 360 are removed.

Henry

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Houston is located near lots of water (bayous and the Gulf of Mexico), and that didn't stop them from building two full loops (I-610, Beltway 8) and a 3/4-loop (TX 99).
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rte66man

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Houston is located near lots of water (bayous and the Gulf of Mexico), and that didn't stop them from building two full loops (I-610, Beltway 8) and a 3/4-loop (TX 99).

Go back and reread the post.  Houston is about as flat as it gets whereas Austin has a very hilly terrain on the western side plus Lake Travis.  Also, Houston has planned for the "wheel and spoke" freeway design since the 50's. And, as mentioned above, the civic mindsets are quite different.
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thisdj78

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Houston is located near lots of water (bayous and the Gulf of Mexico), and that didn't stop them from building two full loops (I-610, Beltway 8) and a 3/4-loop (TX 99).

Go back and reread the post.  Houston is about as flat as it gets whereas Austin has a very hilly terrain on the western side plus Lake Travis.  Also, Houston has planned for the "wheel and spoke" freeway design since the 50's. And, as mentioned above, the civic mindsets are quite different.

Also, the center of Houston is about 30 miles (give or take) from coastline, which is plenty of room for loops.
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TheArkansasRoadgeek

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Re: Where's the Loop? A closer look at why Austin does not have a beltway
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2019, 04:24:28 AM »

Coincidence that it's designation is 360 and it's a loop? :hmmm: :bigass:
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txstateends

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Re: Where's the Loop? A closer look at why Austin does not have a beltway
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2019, 11:26:36 AM »

Coincidence that it's designation is 360 and it's a loop? :hmmm: :bigass:

Well, ordinarily yes.  But it would be a better coincidence if it actually 'looped' around, instead of just being a connecting big side road.
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thisdj78

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Re: Where's the Loop? A closer look at why Austin does not have a beltway
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2019, 07:00:43 PM »

Wonder how long it will be before they connect 45SW all the way to I-35 to complete the loop.

We’re talking what, a 4-5 mile gap?
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roadman65

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Re: Where's the Loop? A closer look at why Austin does not have a beltway
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2019, 12:05:44 AM »

Well the signing of SH 130 on I-10 and I-410 sort of now makes a beltway of I-35.
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Re: Where's the Loop? A closer look at why Austin does not have a beltway
« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2019, 08:03:00 PM »

Sorry, I'm not paying $18 or whatever in tolls to avoid creeping along a couple miles of elevated I-35 and driving at speed the rest. Maybe unless Rick Perry paid me to make the switch.
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Bobby5280

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Re: Where's the Loop? A closer look at why Austin does not have a beltway
« Reply #16 on: June 10, 2019, 08:01:04 PM »

Here in Oklahoma when I hear friends complain about the cost of tolls on the state's turnpikes I sympathize, but then also tell them it could be a lot more pricey if they were driving on toll roads almost anywhere else in the country. Toll cost per mile is more expensive on Texas' toll roads. It gets pretty crazy on the East Coast. I think the Verrazano Bridge now costs $19 to cross ($18 with an EZ Pass).
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vdeane

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Re: Where's the Loop? A closer look at why Austin does not have a beltway
« Reply #17 on: June 10, 2019, 08:58:45 PM »

Toll bridges generally are more expensive than roads, though there are some pretty crazy road charges too.  Like how it costs $4 just to enter or leave Delaware... or the very high rates of the PA Turnpike.
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