Art design

Early Project Connect Designs Tease 4th Street’s ‘Pedestrian Dominance’

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – At a preliminary design workshop on Tuesday, leaders of the Project Connect program presented a vision of a pedestrian-centric Fourth Street corridor as part of the upcoming blue light rail.

In 2019, about 24% of residents walked, biked, used public transportation, or took other non-unique vehicle transportation options to get to work. City leaders have set a target for 50% of residents to use multimodal transit options by 2039.

With that goal comes the need for more equitable and broader options for residents, officials said on Tuesday.

Bordered by Republic and Brush Squares and topped by the Texas Capitol grounds to the north, preliminary design concepts for Fourth Street announced a promenade-like streetscape on Tuesday with outdoor cafe seating, sidewalks and lanes. for pedestrians and bicycles, as well as space for buses on the road.

(Courtesy: Austin Transit Partnership, Capital Metro, City of Austin)

Referred to by program officials as a “pedestrian-dominated” corridor, the revitalization of Fourth Street is one component of the $ 7.1 billion transit overhaul through Project Connect. The transit program and subsequent design proposals are part of a city-led push towards multimodal transit options.

Sources of inspiration included downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, Denver’s 16th Street Transit Mall, and current elements of Austin’s Second Street.

What design elements are taken into account?

With an emphasis on multimodal pavement access beyond traditional automobile traffic, the first design features mentioned included:

  • Sidewalks and paving stones extended in the center of the traditional street to accommodate the escalators, elevators and stairs to the light rail platform
  • Additional outdoor seating for cafes, restaurants and shops with frontage on Fourth Street
  • Bus-oriented vehicle circulation, with some transit accesses for business loading areas and garages along the façade
  • Authorization of street closures for events, scheduled activities of the city
  • Natural light features for the metro hall
  • Retail kiosks along the streets
  • Locally produced public art along the streetscape

While some form of traffic management is likely to be implemented, businesses along Fourth Street that require vehicle access include the Zaza Hotel, 301 Congress parking lot, Frost Bank Tower garage, and the Courtyard Marriot valet parking.

During rush hour, about 500 vehicles pass along Fourth Street, according to data compiled by city officials. In comparison, Cesar Chavez Street records around 2,000 vehicle trips during rush hour.

(Courtesy: Austin Transit Partnership, Capital Metro, City of Austin)
(Courtesy: Austin Transit Partnership, Capital Metro, City of Austin)

The ideal vision for the Fourth Street corridor in the initial designs is to design it as the “green backbone” interweaving the two plazas with the Texas Capitol and the rest of the downtown corridor. Peter Mullan, head of architecture and urban design for Austin Transit Partnership, said the focus on accessibility and mobility via multimodal transport options will be an integral part of the plan.

“We want it to be a place where people come to relax and make sure it’s a quiet street,” he said.

“It’s not just about movement, it’s about creating a place where people have an identity,” he later added. “Has a unique identity and is recognizable and readable, and I think the short distance between Brush Square and Republic Square gives us the opportunity to create this along Fourth Street.”

An aerial concept sketch of the "green spine," connecting the two squares, the Texas Capitol grounds and the rest of the downtown corridor via Fourth Street.  (Courtesy: Austin Transit Partnership, Capital Metro, City of Austin)
An aerial conceptual sketch of the “green backbone,” connecting the two plazas, the Texas Capitol grounds, and the rest of the downtown corridor via Fourth Street. (Courtesy: Austin Transit Partnership, Capital Metro, City of Austin)

What is the history of Fourth Street in Austin?

Fourth Street spans nine blocks from Shoal Creek to Downtown Station near Trinity Street. Historically, the area was a warehouse district that housed freight rails and related industrial uses.

In the 1980s, it evolved into a key entertainment district in the city and is a hub for Austin’s historical heritage and LGBTQ + community.

Jana McCann, architect and town planner working on the project, said it was important to take these historical legacies of the area into account when establishing a design and a sense of ownership for its future uses.

What are the next steps ?

Authorities dubbed Fourth Street Austin’s “new main pedestrian main street” that would combine upcoming light rail stations with a revitalized surface appearance.

As of Tuesday, about 15% of designs had been completed for the project. Managers are currently moving into the 30% design phase and will consider feedback in the 30% phase along with an upcoming environmental impact statement.

These factors, along with the initial cost estimates, should be compiled in the spring.

“It all has to work together,” Mullan said. “This is a comprehensive and holistic mobility infrastructure program. “

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