The Austin City Council took an important step to extend the much-loved Hike and Bike Trail surrounding Lady Bird Lake. By authorizing $14.4 million for the trail improvements in the 2010-2011 budget, the City is set to complete the downtown Hike & Bike Trail by building a boardwalk to cover a 1.1 mile trail gap east of Congress Avenue on the south side of the lake.
Currently, hikers, bikers, runners, walkers, and other trail-goers must brave the shoulders of riverside drive for more than a mile and cross the I-35 frontage roads to complete this part of the loop. With the extension, the hike and bike trail will now run uninterrupted from I-35 to Mopac on both the north and south shores of Lady Bird Lake. For bikers and distance runners, it will now be possible to travel nearly 11 miles around the trails. The extension should also be a boon to the parks and neighborhoods that border the trail East of I-35. Since the loop is incomplete and confusing, fewer people utilize the eastern portion of the trail today.
According to the Austin Business Journal, “Austin City Council members Thursday authorized the first $56 million round of transportation projects from the bond package passed last year. The 2011 fiscal year budget amendment injects money from the voter-approved 2010 Mobility Bond Program, which set aside a total $90 million for road, sidewalk and other transportation projects. The package details about 50 items, including about $14.4 million for the Lady Bird Lake boardwalk extension.”
The Hike and Bike trail is a key downtown asset and one of the biggest selling points of downtown living. Extending the trail has been challenging as much of the land is owned and occupied by various commercial and residential projects — some built as close as 20 feet from the lake.
With today’s action, the City will be able to proceed with an innovative 1.1 mile boardwalk over the water to extend the trail without requiring redevelopment of existing properties. The project has been widely hailed by downtown residents but opposed by some of the land owners whose lakefront property will now face the boardwalk.
Development around Lady Bird Lake has stirred significant controversy over the last few decades, staring with the development of the Hyatt many years ago and continuing with a number of recent condo projects proposed for the South side of the lake.