The Military Budget as Cookies

This excellent animation from TrueMajority shows in graphic detail (using Oreo cookies) how ridiculously, large the military budget is, and how we could solve many domestic problems with a modest 12% cut. A must-see. (watch it now)

How to Not Get
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Battery Guide

Which battery is best? We cover rechargeable and alkaline batteries to show you what's hot, what's not, and the best way to charge them. (visit now)

Updates on Bicycle-Related Roadway Planning in Austin
by , 1904 Holly Street (512) 476-7304

Nov. 6, 2002
I'm surprised that there has been scant discussion regarding tomorrow's [Nov. 7th, 2003] Item 32 on the Austin City Council agenda. The proposal lays out a policy to implement a package of 15 transportation recommendations for the Central Business District. Various consultants and City of Austin Transportation Planning and Sustainability Department (TSPD) staff developed the recommendations. The aim is to create a more livable, pedestrian-friendly, and perhaps bicycle-friendly downtown.
You can see the recommendations at:
Though I would like to support the package, I believe that there are questionable priorities, serious omissions, and inadequate consideration of bicycle transportation.
In addition, I have heard that the 'final' alignment of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway is apparently going before City Council tomorrow as well. I must point out that one (large) victory was won in TSPD's recommendation that the Bikeway be placed on Fourth St. through the breadth of Downtown (IH35 to San Antonio). This in spite of ongoing protestations by a number of Warehouse District Businesses.
The discussion of these proposals is always preceded by exhortations that downtown will become both pedestrian-friendly and bicycle-friendly. You may have heard of Austin's 'Hierarchy of Transportation modes': 1) pedestrians 2) transit 3) bicycles 4) vehicles. I question whether our planners get confused at the end of the list.
When I speak my three minutes on Thursday, I will try to point out how the process keeps failing bicycle transportation:
First, I question why projects (funded for some time) such as Boggy Creek Greenbelt, IH35 under crossing at 4th St., or Pleasant Valley Bike Lanes are not only not complete, but construction has not even begun.
Bike lanes on Lake Austin Boulevard (Exposition to Red Bud Trail) were poorly and inadequately constructed. This bike lane is still unrepaired after nearly three years! You can ride on it on your way to Council.
Many Austinites contributed to the development of the Town Lake Park Masterplan (including many bicyclists), but final plans demonstrate that the needs of transportation bicyclists were not incorporated into that plan! (more on this topic)
Then of course, we have the Pfluger Bicycle/ Pedestrian Bridge. At last month's Austin Cycling Association meeting, City of Austin Senior Planner Jana McCann unveiled a fourth!!! 'redesign', a central arm (see current 'Cycling News'). One could get the impression that this is just another 'anything but the NW arm' redesign.
I'll just mention Shoal Creek Blvd.
Without any more complaining, here are a few of my thoughts about TSPD's "Transportation Recommendations":
1) 'Sandra Muraida Way right turn lane' ($10 K), or extended as 'realigned' and recommended in the Seaholm District Master Plan ($1 M). This realignment will make impossible the construction of the Pfluger Bridge original NW arm extension, greatly favored by bicyclists.
2) I found no reference to the Pfluger Bridge in the 'recommendations'. The resolution of the Pfluger Bridge extension, and connection with the Lance Armstrong Bikeway was not adequately incorporated into this discussion. This oversight illustrates the failure of this process to address bicycle transportation.
As a result, Lance Armstrong Bikeway planners have been forced to choose a route alongside Cesar Chavez from Shoal Creek Trail to Stephen F. Austin Drive. This ridiculous route will cross 2 high-traffic streets on either side of Lamar (Sandra Muraida Way and B.R. Reynolds) at T-intersections with Cesar Chavez. Not only that, but the Pfluger Bridge is up there (and across Cesar Chavez), and the bikeway is down here. 'Makes no sense whatsoever'. Please quote me.
3) Efforts (some might say inadequate) were made by the City to obtain an at-grade rail crossing at Lamar from Union Pacific. More recently (June '01) TSPD Seaholm District Masterplanners heard our input and came up with the Bowie St. tunnel solution ($700 K). The Bowie St. Tunnel is also not found on the 'recommendations', even though widely considered (even by TSPD planners) the best compromise solution both to crossing the UP rail line as well as providing a convenient north-south, Whole Foods route. This tunnel would also facilitate a possible Northerly Lance Armstrong Bikeway route (just south of the UP tracks). Not on their radar'''
4) Restricted left turns for Lamar at 5th and 6th Streets (which have west-bound traffic on Bowie, and east-bound traffic on Baylor) may not account for bicycle traffic on those streets, or the possibility of a Bowie St. underpass/ Bowie-Henderson bike connection.
5) In this same area of the Pfluger Bridge and the LAB, street extensions of 3rd St. across Shoal Creek ($2 to 3 M), and West Ave. through Seaholm ($810 K) are recommended. Both these proposed streets will have bike lanes, but neither contributes anything to bicycle access. A Third St. extension could erase the historic rail trestle with a 68' wide bridge, though a more defensible design would have a separate bridge on either side of the trestle.
5) TSPD recommendations propose streetscape improvements for both 2nd St. ($5 M ' already allocated) and 3rd St. ($5 M). I have wondered why 4th St. should not share such streetscape funding (given a 4th St. bikeway). I was told it had to do with sewers and utilities, that 2nd and 3rd need be paired. 2nd St. is of course the Second Street Retail District. We have 2 CSC buildings, a new City Hall in 2004, a hole in the ground, two empty lots and beer keg conditioning vaults built by the Schneider family in the 1800s (my vote goes with the vaults).
6) Overall, the Great Streets Masterplan, from which much of the recommendations are derived, fares poorly when considering accommodations for bicyclists. The typical accommodation is a +/- 4 ft 'safe zone'. The Great Streets Masterplan also rewrites parts of the Austin Bicycle Plan. Red River is replaced by San Jacinto and Trinity, which are classified as 'Bicycle and Local Access Street' (with bike lanes). I belabor this point because I participated with Tommy Eden and Amy Babich on the community advisory committee. I don't remember giving up Red River. Looking carefully at TSPD documents, I'm confused. Trinity (two-way) is supposed to get me to Town Lake Trail (which is how I get to Holly St. now'), but Trinity has one-way traffic northbound to the soon to be Third St. shuffle.
Great Streets does to its credit also designate Nueces as a 'Bicycle and Local Access Street' and recommend a future (bikable') 'Promenade' along Cesar Chavez west of Congress.
I am very concerned that even with sincerity, perseverance, diligence and tenacity, our projects seem endlessly delayed and fatally compromised.
It is clear that our community lacks the political clout, organization, or resources to effectively advance our agenda. Having an agenda would of course help. We all have our own agenda, but what is OUR agenda?
I plug away, and concoct conspiracies that might some day create a bike-friendly Austin. How about another Bike Summit this coming February 2003? I need more help this time. Please.
Eric Anderson
P.S. Give us the damn bridge! We'd be a lot less cranky.

City of Austin Rolls Out Thirteen New Bicycle/Pedestrian Projects This Year
Nine Other Citizen Proposals Are Being Studied
by , 5-27-00
By the end of this year, the City of Austin (COA) will roll out thirteen new bicycle/pedestrian projects. First and foremost of course is the long awaited beginning of construction for the new Town Lake Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge at Lamar Blvd. Construction began last month on May 15 for this 6.6 million-dollar separate bridge across Town Lake. Also on May 15th, the new Ullrich Water Pipeline Bridge was to be lowered over Shoal Creek at 3rd Street behind the Austin Music Hall. An impromtu celebration hosted by Friends of Crosstown Greenway and Austin Metro Trails and Greenways viewed the lowering of the 39-ton water pipe, but the 130-foot bridge was not installed until May 16th. Breaking news from Councilmember Beverly Griffith's office suggest political momentum may be building for delaying the removal of the 120 year-old 3rd Street railroad trestle. This historic accent to the Shoal Creek Greenbelt could represent future capacity for the Crosstown Greenway as Seaholm, Green Treatment Plant, Intel, CSC, an emerging Shoal Creek resdiential corridor, and other adjacent projects are completed.
Concurently, construction has begun on a new ADA-accessible ramp connecting the west-deck of the First Street Drake Bridge and Cesar Chavez/Guadalupe with the Town Lake Trail below. The Shoal Creek Trail at West Avenue is also currently seeing major construction with stream-bank stabilization and trail reconstruction. Later this year we will see construction of the Ullrich Bridge approaches, ramps and stairways connecting with the Shoal Creek Trail. The stairways will include bicycle wheel grooves allowing a bike to be pushed up the stairs or led down.
On the northern end of the Johnson Creek Trail along Mopac, a trail extension is under construction through West Enfield Park at the Mopac frontage road and Enfield. This trail extension will follow around the swimming pool to Bridle Path and Sharon Lane. This trail spur will get cylists conveniently off Mopac frontage roads to Westover, Jefferson, Expostition, Camp Mabry and points north. Bridle Path and Bonnie will be the no-traffic residential route to Scenic, Pecos, Red Bud Trail, and Mount Bonnel. The Boggy Creek Trail in East Austin will see three new bridges, trail improvements, signage, and a connection to the Crosstown Greenway and Town Lake Trail by way of Perdenales. This author has urged City of Austin Bike Coordinator Linda Dupriest to expedite the construction of the funded bicycle/pedestrian friendly crossing of the IH35 frontage roads at 4th Street. In combination with the Ullrich bridge over Shoal Creek, the 4th Street underpass will open an interim Crosstown Greenway from Lamar into East Austin.
COA Parks and Recreation Department (COA PARD) staff are working diligently on solving difficulties encountered for a planned and funded new bridge over Waller Creek. This bridge would connect the Town Lake Trail with the Waller Creek Trail north of Cesar Chavez. This new bridge will be larger than the 30-ton Ullrich Bridge just lowered. If these technical questions are answered, we may see yet another bridge lowering this year.
COA PARD is in final stages of design and engineering for a "Barton Springs Loop Trail". This trail will extend the current east-bank trail past Sunken Gardens and cross Barton Creek on a new bridge just upstream from the Barton Springs Pool. This project also includes a new underpass next to the Zilker Zepher tracks under Barton Springs Drive, realizing a direct link between the Town Lake Trail and Barton Springs Pool. At the Colorado River Park, work will begin this year or early next on the Colorado River Trail. This new trail in our new 363-acre park will connect Town Lake Trails with the Crosstown Greenway. Immediately south of the Longhorn Dam, an existing 8-foot wide tunnel under Pleasant Valley Road will offer a safe connection.
Other projects in the hopper, though not yet near construction include a "Bicycle Boulevard" from downtown and the Crosstown Greenway, along Nueces, Rio Grande, and perhaps Salado and or West to 38th Street and Central Market. The COA Bike Subcommittee is pursuing this project as an alternative to high-traffic Guadalupe. Attend the Bike Subcommittee meetings to learn more and contribute your ideas.
As reported in last month's "Cycling News", the West Lynn Viaduct proposal is being advanced. Breaking news from COA Planning is that a formal proposal has been forwarded to COA Public Works Department. This 11 by 11-foot tunnel under the Union Pacific tracks would be reopened to offer access from the Old West Austin Neighborhood to Stephen F. Austin High School, the Crosstown Greenway, Zilker Park and the new Town Lake Bridge. The COA bike program may also soon be hiring a consultant to address access from the north end of Shoal Creek Blvd., under 183/Research, across the Union Pacific tracks, and across Mopac to Whole Foods, REI, and the Arboretum. 2001 TEA 21 applications will most likely include this project, the Jollyville connection, a needed Barton Creek Bridge at Mopac, and Town Lake Board Walk, all of which were unsuccessful 1999 TEA 21 applications. 1998 bond money may be applied to improvements to a West Bouldin Creek Greenbelt trail including a connection to Town Lake Park. Plans are also afoot to include a "bicycle pedestrian greenway" within the perimeter of the Mueller Airport redevelopment, while making all internal roadways bicycle-friendly through traffic calming or striped bike lanes.
Clearly, this year 2000 will see more bicycle/pedestrian improvements than we have ever seen. There is still much to be accomplished, but we should be grateful to the efforts of all the citizen activists and public servants, past and present, from LadyBird Johnson and Beverly Sheffield to Tommy Eden and Ullrich Pipeline Project Manager Jay Ulary. Clearly this has been a group effort, and we are now reaping the rewards of our collective efforts with 13 projects under construction this year, eight bridges, two tunnels, two or more underpasses, and nine or more valid proposals. These nine other citizen proposals will hopefully ride the coattails of the Crosstown Greenway, inspiring our community to create a citywide network of bicycle/pedestrian friendly trails, streets, bridges and boulevards.

Pick a project in your neighborhood, adopt it, find out who the players are, attend the Bike Subcommittee meetings.

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