Letter to Council on North Burnet Gateway

I sent this today, based on a request from the Planning Commission:

Members –

The Planning Commission had asked that I submit comments on your consideration of the North Burnet Gateway (NBG) plan. I apologize that I have other commitments today that will not allow me to attend your meeting, I hope written comments will suffice.

I am the president of the Milwood Neighborhood Association, and a recent addition to the Urban Transportation Commission. I have been involved with planning for the NBG plan for a long time, and Molly Scarborough is a great ambassador of the city and I commend her leadership on this project. I want to acknowledge the many positive aspects of this plan, and the need to plan to accommodate our future growth, and the logical role that NBG can and should play in our city.

The prime reason for my involvement in the project is interest in the impact of increasing density to accommodate upwards to 80,000 people into a slice of land that has three freeway exits, two of which are characterized by very dangerous and traffic sensitive weaving patterns. Closest to the heart of my neighborhood, the current entrance to the Domain off of the Duval exit approaches comically unsafe in the weaving patterns it requires. If this is to be a major residential property, someone will eventually die in this weave. The Domain could consider alternate entrance locations in their expansion, and you could help facilitate that conversation. This topic is a particular interest of the Milwood Neighborhood if you have interest in learning more.

Functional commuter rail, including commitment to new feeder bus routes into the nearby neighborhoods, will be a strong determiner on the capacity of these roadways to absorb some but certainly not all of this traffic. I am unaware of actual current plans to extend bus circulators into neighborhoods like Milwood, although there may be the intent. Commuter rail cannot accommodate all of the cars in the new planning zone, but the lack of success will certainly ensure a traffic disaster.

Another critical aspect of this plan we would ask you to please focus on and be our advocates for is the contemplated buildout of a flyover connecting 183 and 360 you will find in the plan. Today, 183 from Burnet continuing north is all but impassible at the end of the workday. Residents of the neighborhoods north and west of the 183/Mopac interchange would simply ask that you help us get home after work. Not addressing this issue – while adding zoning that is effect establishes of a second downtown – makes us envision a future of snarl on 183 that makes us long for the pain of today. Please consider early commitment to finding a way to make that a reality.

Finally we would ask for you to consider how the TIA process for future TODs considers not only the designated planning area, but the neighborhoods that surround the planning area. While Molly Scarborough accommodated our interest, the city must realize you cannot create a gravity well with 80,000 people in a piece of land and not have impacts on the surrounding pieces of land. The TIA process should also be opened in some way to allow neighborhoods to express concerns or observations based on their experience. Today in my experience the TIA does not involve community input, and once it is delivered is used as a reason for why there is no longer reason for community input. I’m not proposing that the TIA cease to be an engineering document, but given the political reality that it is often used as the reason why there is no longer the need for discussion, it cannot only be an engineering document.

The other aspect the Planning commission asked me to forward to you was the importance of this area to bike commuters. The primary bike route north is Shoal Creek. At the point one gets to Steck and Shoal Creek, a variety of unsafe and probably illegal actions have to be taken to get north of 183 and MoPac. If this plan had a way to emphasize making Burnet or a similar path bike friendly early, and accommodate a logical connection of a route from Shoal Creek to that solution, you could truly establish a corridor that encourages multimodal transportation.

Thank you for your service and your commitment to our city. If you have questions for me I’d be happy to work with you in the future.

Best Regards,

Dustin Lanier
President, Milwood Neighborhood Association
Member, Urban Transportation Commission

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