No more Riverside detours
The Austin City Council will soon begin deliberating a task force recommendation on a proposed $84 million transportation bond package and in so doing will inherit the arguments over what’s transportation and what isn’t and whether the money is being equitably distributed.
The task force’s mission was to “develop a proposed bond package comprised of road, sidewalk, bicycle infrastructure, trail and other transportation-related investments.” The potential for conflict arises in the phrase “other transportation-relate investments.”
Sure enough, that’s what happened. As soon as a memorandum started hitting inboxes, the grumbling started over whether the recommendations did enough to ease traffic congestion. There was more grumbling that the recommendations concentrated on proposed spending downtown.
A proposal to close the existing 1.1-mile gap in the hike-and-bike trail on the south shore of Lady Bird Lake, where it stops short of the Interstate 35 bridge, took some hits but survived — albeit in a way that fails to close the gap.
At $17 million, it is one of the more expensive items in the bond package, but as we noted here last month, the Austin Trails Foundation is offering to raise $3 million toward the cost. The task force memo to the council recommends building a boardwalk that stops just east of Interstate 35. The Trail Foundation’s $3 million pledge is key to closing the gap.
It’s not exactly what proponents of the boardwalk project wanted to hear, but William Kerr, the Austin lawyer who is chairman of the Trail Foundation, said he is confident his group can raise the money.
Let’s hope so. Closing the 1.1-mile gap on the south shore trail would facilitate its use for runners, pedestrians and bicyclists moving east and west.
Advocates of the trail project acknowledge the bridge might not fit a “traditional” definition of transportation but note accurately that not all traffic is generated by vehicles.
The trail stops abruptly at the eastern edge of the American-Statesman’s property and near the west end of Lakeshore Park. Runners, walkers and cyclists going either direction then must move along Riverside Drive until the trail resumes on the other side of the interstate.
Kerr’s willingness to help the city close an ancient geographical and cultural gap by linking east to west is commendable. He and his organization will need your help in getting that project built, and you’re going to hear them ask for it. Donate if you can because bridging the divide is not only a matter of infrastructure and public safety — it’s also an important development in the city’s history.
Not only will the bridge help close the historic east-wide divide and keep those who use the trail off streets and sidewalks, it will be an attractive amenity on Lady Bird Lake.
The council is expected to make the final decisions on what projects will be included on the Nov. 3 ballot in the coming weeks.