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Congress Ave. redesign focusing on alternative transportation

Tuesday, Austin residents got their first look at the future of Congress Avenue. The major project aims to redesign the space between the State Capitol and Riverside Drive. (CBS Austin)

Tuesday, Austin residents got their first look at the future of Congress Avenue. The major project aims to redesign the space between the State Capitol and Riverside Drive. Many of the potential plans put an emphasis on alternative transportation.

After a year of gathering public input, renderings were revealed -- all the three proposed designs cutting lanes of traffic down from six to four or five.

"We heard that the culture of the avenue and Austin and the State of Texas is very important," explains Michele Van Hyfte, vice president of economic development for the Downtown Austin Alliance.

Congress Avenue is one of the busiest downtown streets. Aside from lacking a stronger identity, the public submitted concerns that it's also missing basic transportation necessities.

"You really don't notice it until you're behind a biker and they're stressed out and you're stressed out," says Hattie Lindsley who works downtown.

Bike lanes would be one major addition to Congress Avenue -- as would wider sidewalks, more greenspace and room for spill-out cafes and retail. Proposed improvements don't include more lanes for traffic or more street parking.

"I would hate to see Congress get bigger in terms of vehicular traffic, so I'm all for bike lanes. That's awesome," Lindsley adds.

"We need to be flexible for a future that might include different kinds of transportation than what we've had," explains David Taylor, public works project manager with the City of Austin.

Taylor says the goal is creating an avenue better prepared the future.

"We're confident that there will be a need to shift to alternative means of moving about," he says.

The city is taking input for the next six weeks on this long-term project that'll define one of Austin's most iconic streets for years to come.

"Some of these things we might see sooner, but much of the work would require some bond funding and might take 10-20 years to complete," Taylor says.

Other ideas include a potential plaza closer to the State Capitol which would create more space for festivals and celebrations. A plan should be completed at the end of the summer, then it will go before city council for approval by early 2019.

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