Trail From Lady Bird Lake To Leander Slowly Takes Shape
A 32-mile trail along Capital Metro's commuter rail line from downtown Austin to Leander is being stitched together piece by piece. The Austin City Council will vote Thursday on an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation for the trail to cross into the state's right-of-way.
The deal highlights how many government agencies are involved: three cities, two counties, two regional agencies, one municipal utility district and TxDOT.
That's one reason the Red Line Trail, originally slated for completion in 2019, is not expected to be done until 2030.
"Obviously, that's pretty far off," said Red Line Parkway Initiative Executive Director Tom Wald. The nonprofit he leads was created to help move things along.
"A big part of it is owed to just the complexities of completing a trail that crosses so many jurisdictions," he said.
Right now, he said, only about 10% of the trail is done. The city finished one stretch in February. The Lower Boggy Creek Trail from Rosewood Avenue to East 12th Street is Austin's first dual-track urban trail. Pedestrians and cyclists each have their own paths, so people moving at different speeds will be separated.
Most of the existing Red Line Trail is in Austin. You can already ride from Lady Bird Lake into Cherrywood on the trail, which overlaps with the Lance Armstrong Bikeway and the EastLink Trail.
From there it gets spotty. A stretch from U.S. 290 to about Justin Lane. A fragment in Avery Ranch. A few chunks in Cedar Park.
"It's all about knitting these pieces together to create the full 32-mile corridor," City of Austin Urban Trails Program Manager Katie Wettick said.
The mobility bond voters approved in 2016 includes money to design part of the Red Line Trail from the Northern Walnut Creek Trail to the new Q2 soccer stadium where the Austin FC will play.
The Red Line Trail costs about $4 million per mile on average to build. The trail is made of concrete and must be able to withstand the weight of Capital Metro maintenance vehicles. Some sections require bridges.
Austin's voter-approved 2020 mobility bond included $80 million for transportation-related urban trails.
"It's just a question of will those funding opportunities continue to exist, or will we need to be searching for other funding options," Wettick said.
The Red Line Parkway Initiative is hoping the Biden administration will offer federal assistance.
"People think of Austin as a place that's great for trails," Wald said. "But we have very few paved trails, so there's a big case to be made."
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