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Major Changes Possible For Rainey Street, Nearby Parking

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT

It's an area that's already clogged with traffic -- the City of Austin is now considering spending $700,000 to reduce Rainey Street to one lane and start charging for parking, while removing some parking from streets.

Whether it's 9 p.m. or 9 a.m., finding parking on Rainey Street in Downtown Austin can be survival of the fittest.   

"I'm leaving early from my home just to find it," said Ben Novak, who works on Rainey Street. "You saw me driving up and down the street, and it's nine in the morning."

"Parking is really the primary concern down here on Rainey Street," said Josh Cleghorn, a manager at Banger's, a restaurant on the busy section of Rainey.

It's exactly why Cleghorn is keeping an eye on the city's latest improvement plan for Rainey, which calls for reducing the main strip between Driskill and River, which includes several bars, restaurants, and food trucks, to one lane, with a new two-way protected bike lane in place of the old lane, along with taking out a nearby traffic circle and adding sidewalks and lighting.

"We need to make sure bicycles, pedestrians, and vehicles can share that space safely," said Howard Lazarus, Director of Public Works for the City of Austin.

Lazarus says more bars plus more traffic and already brought concerns from council and residents during the last two years.

"If they're doing anything that would lessen the number of parking spaces then that would be a concern," said Cleghorn.

Parking on one side of Rainey would go away, but Lazarus says with 49 new back-angle parking spaces being built on nearby East Avenue, the area would actually gain 22 spaces. Another 123 would be available at the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) parking lot. All of those spaces, plus what's left on Rainey, would become metered. But why do that when the spaces are already free?

"Metered parking promotes turnover so you don't have people parking there all day long," said Lazarus, who said there's currently an issue with people working in or visiting downtown parking leaving their cars on or near Rainey for long periods of time because the parking is free. "It'll actually help clear parking."

Lazarus says money from the MACC lot will go to the MACC, and money from the meters will pay off construction costs, later going into a neighborhood improvement fund.

Lazarus says the Transportation Department is also discussing a limited parking permit program for nearby residents. City officials say the recommendations aren't set in stone, and they will continue to meet with residents and businesses. They say, if approved, most of the changes would be made after South by Southwest.

By Adam BennettMajor Changes Possible For Rainey Street, Nearby Parking


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