As Executive Director of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, or Mobility Authority, Mike Heiligenstein has a thorough understanding of what improving Austin traffic would look like. He has worked with the agency since 2003, and oversaw its development from a local multi-modal startup into a major toll and roadway agency. He has over thirty years of infrastructure experience and other urban development features including trails, parks, clean air rules, and alternative modes of transport like bicycles and pedestrian bridges.
In an opinion piece he wrote for The Statesman, he explained more about the Mobility Authority’s mission to improve multi-modal transportation throughout the greater Austin area, including bike, pedestrian, and car transport.
Toll roads have been a major part of their strategy. One primary achievement was the 183A Toll road, which helped to accommodate exponential growth in the Cedar Park and Leander area. They also constructed the U.S. 290 toll road between Austin and Manor, fixing issues with existing lanes while adding toll lanes which moderate traffic by adjusting the price based upon traffic levels. Unlike many toll road companies, the Mobility Authority is a local agency established by the Travis and Williamson counties.
The Mobility Authority also is developing “Smart Road” technology, which can improve traffic situations and connectivity. The fiber lanes embedded into the 183 S. street between US 290 and the airport are early infrastructure improvements that will expand as technology develops to accommodate it. Traffic apps are another emerging technology that the Mobility Authority has embraced. Together with traffic monitoring cameras, they can offer real-time traffic data for commuters debating their fastest route, or enhancing a car pool experience for drivers.
Yet real traffic solutions for Austin will not be able to end with cars. A holistic approach means improving the bicycling and walking experiences to get more people out of their cars and onto their own power. Mobility Authority and Mike Heiligenstein are dedicated to expanding Shared Use Paths along their project roads, building walking and biking bridges over major roadways, and tying bike routes into existing trails that people can use safely.
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority was created in 2002 in response to a demand by the citizens of Williamson and Travis Counties that the government find creative and long-term solutions for traffic problems in their area. Their mission is to reduce congestion, improve quality of bike and walking experiences, and increase economic vitality through improved infrastructure.