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Dangerous South Austin intersection to get major safety overhaul

One of Austin's most dangerous intersections is about to get a major overhaul. The City of Austin is spending $1.1 million to make the intersection of South Congress Avenue and Oltorf Street safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. (CBS Austin)

One of Austin's most dangerous intersections is about to get a major overhaul. The City of Austin is spending $1.1 million to make the intersection of South Congress Avenue and Oltorf Street safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

The traffic at the busy intersection is non-stop. Cars constantly compete with pedestrians and cyclists for right-of-way.

"I walk by there a lot," said Erica Wollman who lives south of the intersection on Congress Avenue.

Wollman has to deal with the congestion at the intersection at least once a day.

"It definitely is kind of a crazy intersection with all the people and the traffic and it kind of is a lot of congestion," said Wollman.

South Congress and Oltorf is one of the city's top crash intersections. From 2012 to 2015 there were 56 crashes. Many involved pedestrians and cyclists who were injured.

"There are tons of businesses up and down this street, so when you're walking you have to make sure you're watching for people coming in and coming out," said Wollman.

To make this intersection safer the Austin Transportation Department is going to reconstruct driveways along Congress Avenue to reduce conflicts between people walking and vehicles entering and exiting businesses.

The city will also add a 10-12 foot mixed-use path for pedestrians and cyclists going northbound and southbound on Congress Avenue.

All the changes are designed to make everyone easier to see.

"There are a lot of vehicles coming out of driveways, entering driveways, making left turns in and left turns out and there isn't good visibility for pedestrians and bikes," said Amica Bose, project manager for the Austin Transportation Department.

The biggest change will be replacing the double yellow lines that separate the northbound and southbound lanes with raised medians.

By this summer, Congress and Oltorf will be the third intersection on the city's list of top crash locations to get an overhaul.

"The needs are more and the funding is limited but what we want to do is to really look at the crash patterns so that we can deliver the critical safety improvements at a high number of intersections," said Bose.

Construction is part of the Intersection Safety/Vision Zero program that is funded by the 2016 Mobility Bond. That bond dedicates $15 million to fatality reduction strategies for projects listed on the Top Crash Location Intersection Priorities Improvement List. There are 28 intersections on the list. This is the third intersection to begin construction and it is estimated to cost $1.1 million.

Construction starts on Monday and should wrap up sometime in the summer of 2018.

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