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East-West travel in Austin: Koenig Lane/2222
Created and last updated August 6, 2001
Also see: Austin Historic Freeway Planning Maps
Koenig Lane/2222 is a four-lane undivided roadway for its full length. It is in the configuration from the original urbanization of this part of Austin just after World War 2. Like all other Austin roads from that area, design is very poor. The lanes are very narrow (10 feet), and there are sharp curves in the roadway. Frequent sidestreets and commericial establishments in this corridor ensure lots of turning movements and stationary vehicles in the left lane trying to turn left. Most of the signalized intersections do not have a left turn lane, further reducing corridor efficiency. Most of this corridor is rather unsightly, mainly because it is lower-tier 1950's suburbia.
This corridor sustained a freeway cancellation not just once but twice. In the 1960's, a freeway was planned from Lamar to IH-35. The interchange of US 290 and IH-35 clearly made provisions for the westward extension of the freeway. By the early 1970's, plans for this freeway were cancelled. In the mid 1980's, the Koenig Lane freeway was reinstated, this time for the full length between IH-35 and Loop 1. Neighborhood opposition was intense, and the freeway was cancelled in 1994. There have been no improvements to 2222 whatsoever since the 1950's.
Will the Koenig Lane Freeway ever be resurrected? Almost surely not. For that to happen, there will need to be big political shift in city council and the mayor's office. The anti-freeway activists will need to disappear from the scene. (In other words, they'll need to die, and no new ones would be able to arise.) And in today's budgetary climate, chances of getting funding would be slim. But there are a few signs of hope for the external optimist. The new direct connector ramps at Interstate 35 include a ramp from Koenig/2222 to Interstate 35 southbound. Is TxDOT anticipating much heavier traffic flows coming off Koenig/2222 someday? And then there's the vacant land at the intersection with Lamar, just right for a freeway.
Normally, neighborhood interests fight against freeways to "preserve the vitality" of neighborhoods. Ironically, more than half of the Koenig Lane corridor has sustained some decay or loss of houses since 1994, in spite of the Austin real estate boom. Most of the houses in the stretch between Lamar and Burnet have been converted to businesses. The area of Koenig and Lamar Boulevard has become somewhat of a seedy area, with recent reports of prostitution along Lamar. West of Burnet, the corridor has benefited from the booming real estate prices in the fashionable Allendale neighborhood.
In June 2001, funding was approved for the first improvements to the 2222 corridor in about 50 years. A central median will be added, just wide enough to allow left turn lanes at intersections. This will be a big safety improvement for this corridor. It almost didn't happen. Some of the neighborhood interests along the corridor are so extreme that they actively opposed this improvement because it did not include landscaping that was to their liking. In April 2001, the opposition actually prevailed when the local planning organization denied funds to the safety improvement project in a very close vote. Two months later, in June 2001, the planning organization reversed its earlier vote and approved funding to add the central median. The Central median will be a big improvement for 2222. The corridor is very dangerous in its present configuration.
For a long time, my opinion was along the lines of "if you're not going to do it right (ie a freeway or major arterial), then don't do anything at all." I think TxDOT had this opinion also. But at some point, it becomes necessary to recognize defeat and move forward. The modest improvement plan approved in June 2001 came after years of negotiation and some last minute maneuvering to gain approval. I think everyone just wants to get this safety improvement in place, forget about the 2222/Koenig Lane Freeway controversy, and get on with their lives.
1971 Plans for the US 290/2222 interchange
This 1971 model shows the planned interchange at Interstate 35. At the lower left corner of the photo, the model shows the freeway continuing westward. The connector ramps shown in this model were not constructed and were part of the casualties of the freeway cancellations of the 1970's. Notice that the 1971 model included six direct connectors and included all the connectors to the Koenig Lane/2222 freeway. When construction on direct connectors finally began nearly 30 years later in 1999, only one of the connectors to Koenig Lane/2222 was included: the eastbound-to-southbound. The 1999 design also included a connector from southbound IH-35 to eastbound US 290. The interchange will open in late summer 2001. The man on the left in the photo probably did not live to see today's interchange. The other two guys are probably still around.
Driving the 290 - Koenig/2222 Corridor from east to west
The Koenig Lane/2222 freeway would have been a continuation of the US 290 freeway. These photos show a driver's view of the corridor starting on the 290 freeway and proceeding westward along Koenig/2222.
A. On the US 290 freeway about 0.5 miles east of the end of the freeway. Photo taken 29-July-2001.
B. (high resolution 144 kb) Approaching the interchange at IH-35. Photo taken 29-July-2001.
C. (high resolution 201 kb) At the IH-35 interchange at IH-35. On the date of this photo, 29-July-2001, the connector ramps were within weeks of completion.
D. (high resolution 130 kb) The freeway ends just after crossing underneath Interstate 35. Photo taken 29-July-2001.
E. (high resolution 223 kb) This view shows the end of freeway as it becomes Koenig Lane/2222. This photo was taken from the nearly complete connector ramp that will connect eastbound traffic on Koenig/2222 to southbound IH-35.
F. Looking west towards the transition to Koenig/2222. Photo taken 29-July-2001.
G. A view along Koenig/2222 just west of the freeway end. This view shows one of the four churches located along the corridor. I'm sure these churches were a factor in the opposition to the freeway. Photo taken 29-July-2001.
H. (high resolution 172 kb) Koenig/2222 is on the right side of this photo. There is a large tract of vacant land at the intersection with Lamar. All the land in this area was urbanized a long time ago, so this definitely suggests the land was being held for the freeway. Since the property on the north side of Koenig belongs to the state of Texas, this tract is almost certainly held by the state of Texas, and possibly TxDOT. Hopefully TxDOT will keep this tract vacant, just to help keep that faint glimmer of hope alive.
J. Just west of Lamar, Koenig/2222 takes a sharp curve and then follows the path shown in this view. This section is cluttered with commercial establishments. Since there is no center turning lane on the road, not even at the signalized intersections, traffic flow efficiency is very poor, and safety hazards to drivers are high. Photo taken 29-July-2001.
K. Driver's view of the commercial zone between Lamar and Burnet. Photo taken 29-July-2001.
L. (high resolution 300 kb) Approaching Burnet Road, just about all the houses along the corridor have been converted to commercial use. This view looks along the south side of the road. The houses in this section are lower-tier, 1950's all-wood tract houses. This conversion from a neighborhood street to a commercial street happened during the 1990's. Of course, a street like Koenig/2222 is not really suitable for houses. Unfortunately, these businesses have generated more turning movements along this section. Photo taken 29-July-2001.
M. This view shows some converted houses along the north side of the road. Photo taken 29-July-2001.
N. This view looks west towards the Burnet Road traffic light. Photo taken 29-July-2001.
O. After crossing Burnet, Koenig/2222 enters the sky-high real estate price zone. This view shows a sharp curve as the road passes through the Allendale neighborhood. This neighborhood was constructed in the 1950's but features much higher-quality housing than what is found to the east. Photo taken 29-July-2001.
P. After crossing Loop 1, the Koenig Lane designation ends and the road is Ranch Road 2222. The road is now in the Texas Hill Country, and 2222 crosses through zones of exclusive real estate. This section of roadway was never planned to be a full freeway. Photo taken 28-July-2001.