The Austin City Council took a first step today to extend the much-loved Hike and Bike Trail surrounding Lady Bird lake to close the gap between Congress Avenue and I-35 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 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.
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 council has hired a firm to design a 1.1 mile boardwalk over the water to extend the trail without requiring redevelopment of existing properties. The full project is expected to cost $10 – $15 million to complete.
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. In today’s meeting the city also took action to review current waterfront development guidelines.
According to the Statesman:
A 15-member task force will soon begin evaluating the city’s development regulations for properties along Lady Bird Lake in an effort to eliminate inconsistent and vague rules that have frustrated developers and citizens opposing their projects.Members soon to be appointed will include a representative from the Parks and Recreation Board, the Planning Commission, the Design Commission, the Downtown Commission, the Environmental Board, Save Town Lake, the Town Lake Trails Foundation and the Real Estate Council of Austin.The City Council also will select representatives from registered neighborhood organizations with boundaries abutting Lady Bird Lake and owners of property within the affected areas.The group is scheduled to submit a public report with recommended changes by early fall, and the City Council probably will hold public hearings and vote on the recommended changes in January.