In late 1998 (or maybe early '99, we forget), local cycling advocate Eric Anderson (476-7304) proposed the idea of a crosstown bikeway running about 5 miles east/west from Mopac to 183, mostly along the abandoned railway on 4th St. The City Council approved $1.2 million of City money for the project, and applied for matching federal funds. The City was awarded $1.97 in federal matching funds in Jan. 2000. (Several other bike and non-bike applications failed to receive funding.) In a fit of patriotism, the City Council named the project after local sports cycling celebrity Lance Armstrong, though Armstrong had nothing to do with the project. The project is expected to be completed in 3-4 years. Below is an excerpt of Anderson's open letter about the project. And here's our article about the bikeway in our 1-30-00 newsletter. The Friends of the Crosstown Greenway is advising the City as the project is built. Contact them at BikeEric(at)Earthlink.net or 476-7304.
Dear Bicyclists, Pedestrians, and Riders of Capital Metro:
Major redevelopment efforts are underway in the downtown area bounded by IH-35, Lamar Blvd., 6th St., and Town Lake. No consideration has yet been given toward transportation or public amenities through this corridor as part of these numerous projects. That these projects share an incredibly similar timeline, an opportunity presents itself to create a bicycle/pedestrian/transit corridor along 4th/3rd Streets from IH-35 to Lamar Blvd. Please see attached maps.
In addition, the Seaholm Power Plant will eventually be redeveloped, and light rail is slated to run through this entire corridor. If you add all this together, you will no doubt see the opportunity to create a first-class intermodal light rail/bicycle/pedestrian facility through the entire south rim of downtown Austin. This east-west corridor would be intersected by Amtrak, light rail, the soon-to-be bike/pedestrian bridge over Town Lake at Lamar, Shoal Creek trail, many bus routes, Congress Avenue, and Waller Creek trails, just to name the bicycle, pedestrian, and transit interfaces. The project could extend into East Austin as far as the SH 183 bridge, using railway right of way, 4th & 5th Streets. This greenway could also be extended to the west as far as the Johnson Creek trail at Mopac.
Your interest will make a difference. You can help create a true community vision.
Stuart Werbner, June 22, 2001
As I was leaving tonight's Public Hearing on the Lance Armstrong Crosstown Bikeway, I was approached by an aide to one of the members of the City Council. Because I wish to continue constructively working with him and the City Council on other issues, I won't mention his name.
Anyway, he began telling me how the bicycle and pedestrian community needs to throw its support behind allowing a portion of the Bikeway to be built along Cesar Chavez, so that TxDOT won't build a freeway along the waterfront to connect I-35 and Mopac. His reasoning was that if we go along with allowing part of the Bikeway to run along Cesar Chavez, this would make it much harder for TxDOT to build along the waterfront. If we were to do what's clearly in our own interest and push for this portion of the bikeway to run along 3rd or 4th streets, we would be "playing right into TxDOT's hands" in their push to widen/expand Cesar Chavez.
He believes that the suburbanites and the Republicans will have the votes in 5 years to build a connecter freeway downtown, and that it is just a matter of where will it be built. Of course, he neglected to mention that a lot of this problem was caused in the first place by a life-long Democrat, and former mayor of Austin -- Ann Richards, and her infamous deal with Gary Bradley to extend Mopac to southwestern Travis County. A deal that will ultimately result in the destruction of the Barton Springs Aquifer, in all likelihood, in about 10 years.
So, my advice, for whatever it's worth, is to ignore this latest ploy to get us to short change ourselves, and fight for what's in our best interests. This would be to reroute the portion of the trail from along Cesar Chavez, where we already have the Hike 'n Bike Trail, further to the north, where we need connection with downtown. In doing so, we may find that we will be advocating for what's in the city's best interests as well as our own.
Ken Marsh, June 22, 2001
If you have comments you'd like to get to the planners of the LAB, send them to Tom Benz. He is the city's project manager on the LAB.
While the unofficial voting at both public meetings was almost 100% in favor of keeping the bikeway at least a block north of Cesar Chavez, we were also told at last night's meeting that that route would require extensive (expensive) construction and the purchasing of right of way behind YMCA and the animal shelter (just west of Lamar and just south of the RR tracks). Unfortunately, we were told that the current funding for the bikeway cannot be used for purchasing ROW. Where could we get more money?
Regarding the distant possibility of turning Cesar Chavez into a highway: Seems to me that the existance of a bikeway (basically a glorified sidewalk) for a few blocks here and there along Cesar Chavez wouldn't stop a highway for a second - they'd just move the bikeway and do a poor job at that - and anybody that would fight future highway plans to save a bikeway is probably already against turning CC into a highway.
(RANT: I mean, who in their right mind would want to completely cut off downtown from its beautiful waterfront with a highway that could only possibly save drivers what... 60... 120 seconds of commute time?!?!? That's car-addicted lunacy! I'm so sick of giving up major chunks of quality of life because drivers don't want to touch their freakin' brake pedals! There is no way in hell I'm going to sit back and watch CC turned into a highway and I know there are thousands of Austin lovers who feel as passionate about this as I do! <Thanks, I needed that>)
Anyway, I believe we would gain nothing by puting the bikeway anywhere next to CC but we would lose some of its usefulness and directness. The only plan I've heard of that has the potential to save CC from becoming a highway (if that's even a real threat) is the Great Streets plan that would turn CC into a divided, tree-lined boulevard with a tree-covered island down the middle and a few more ped crossings. THAT I could live with.
James Burnside, June 22, 2001
Trying to put the LA Bikeway along Cesar Chavez (CC) is simply a way of killing the western extension. What is the point of putting a bike way on the northern side of CC when we already have one on the south side (TownLake Hike & Bike, less than fifty yards away)?
For those who haven't solved this little mystery (Lance Armstrong BikeWay, Pfluger Bike/Ped Bridge, Seaholm Master Plan confluence), let me lay it out for you. The Seaholm Plan will push the LA BikeWay to CC. But wait, we already have a bike way on Town Lake, so we don't need this section. But if we don't have this section of the LA BikeWay where will the Pfluger Bike/Ped Bridge go?!
Hold on, what about the nearby SHOAL CREEK Hike and Bike Trail?...How convenient. The Pf. Bike/Ped Bridge already connects with the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail which connects with the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail and now we can just connect (sort of) the LA Cross Town Bikeway with the Shoal Creek H&B Trail.
It's simple. It saves money. And what can we say. Sure Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail sucks and is unusable by anyone without a mountain bike or on a serious rainy day. But put it on a map (the only thing Counicl Members will see) and it looks great!
Be prepared folks. This is where we are headed.
Eric Anderson, July 14, 2001
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped make this project a success. I particularly want to thank those who took the time to attend the June public input meetings and those who offered comments to the planning team.
Due to reinjuring my right leg, I am taking a sabatical from this project. In August 1998, returning to my home in East Austin from Ruta Maya, harassed by an impatient motorist, I broke my upper femur and recieved a titanium implant. Two months later, Austin's first traffic circle was installed at the scene of my accident, at Rainey and River St. That experience changed my life, and reacting to the death of Yellow Bike Project volunteer Ben Clough, I committed myself to create a new safe bike route, the Crosstown Bikeway. Now unable to bike, walking awkwardly with a cane, without health insurance, and able to work only 10-15 hrs/week, I need to focus on my physical and financial problems. Please continue your support of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway and other emerging bike-grid projects throughout Austin.
Overall, I'm rather satisfied with the result of our collective efforts to create a unique crosstown bikeway, though several unresolved issues remain. Perhaps the greatest indication of success is a new awareness of a possible future "bike-grid", a network of connecting trails, pathways and on-street facilities creating a more livable community.
I would like to point out several projects that are pointing in this direction: 1) COA T-21 application for Upper Boggy Creek Bikeway, connecting Town Lake Trail, Lance Armstrong Bikeway and Boggy Creek Trail to Hancock Center by way of Cap Metro's rail ROW. 2) Travis County's T-21 application for MKT trail, from Pfluggerville to YMCA East Branch eventually connecting to the Lance Armstrong Bikeway by way of Boggy Creek and or Cap Metro rail ROW. 3) The possibility of creating a one of a kind "dynamic nexus" of trail connections within the Seaholm District, connecting the new Pflugger Bike/ Pedestrian Bridge, Lance Armstrong Bikeway and Shoal Creek Trail. Please support all these efforts.
I applaud the efforts of Dave Westenbarger, and the support lent by the Cherrywood Neighborhood Association and Upper Boggy Creek Planning Team for advancing the concept of an Upper Boggy Creek (UBC) Bikeway. The hope and dream of those who worked on the Lance Armstrong Bikeway was that our project might inspire other neighborhoods in our city to concieve of trail and bikeway projects that over time will create that Austin Bike Grid. The UBC Bikeway is evidence that this project is underway. That this project was concieved by neighborhood activists, as a "neighborhood connector", also demonstrates that we are now rightfully viewing these projects not simply as "bike projects", but as community development tools. The UBC Bikeway will connect neighborhoods east and west of IH 35 as well as redeveloped Mueller Airport.
The MKT Trail was first proposed in 1996 but unsucessful in that year's bond election. Travis County has kept this idea alive and last year vied for funding from CAMPO. The MKT rail ROW was purchased by TXDOT for the 1980's version of SH 130, known as MOKAN. Now, this right of way is slated to host a 12-foot-wide trail from Pfluggerville to just north of the Colorado River. The trail would access Northeast Park, LBJ High School, the YMCA East Branch, TRACOR, Motorola, connect to the Lance Armstrong Bikeway by way of Boggy Creek and/or Cap Metro rail ROW.
Though unresolved, the possibilities inherent in the Seaholm District may also contibute toward this emerging Austin Bike Grid. The challenge is to complete the Pflugger Bike/ Pedestrian Bridge in such a way to not only provide north-south access, but also a direct connection to downtown by way of Seaholm and the Ullrich Pipeline Bridge over Shoal Creek. This connection would also serve the planned future Intermodal Station just north of Seaholm, now to include a "Bike Station". COA Bike Program planners have made part of the Seaholm network more realistic by documenting 600 bike and pedestrian crossings per day of the UP rail line. An at-grade gated-crossing at Lamar is now highly probable. In addition, Union Pacific may allow use of part of the existing rail bridge for use as an east west crossing of Lamar south of the tracks. The significance here is a savings of 2.5 to 3.5 million dollars, or the possibility to achieve far more function far earlier.
The other watershed that we as a community have achieved is the availability of upwards of 50 million dollars in new funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects. The 1998 bond election included $10 million, the 2000 bond election included another $20 million, and more than 15% of Cap Metro sales-tax surplus funds returned to Austin were appropriated to bike and pedestrian projects. An emerging coalition of neighborhoods, environmental organizations, and bicyclists are attempting to reallocate the $29 million earmarked for MOPAC extension land acquisition, with $8 million to be designated for bike and pedestrian projects.
On the political level, CAMPO last year met its pledge of earmarking 15% of appropriations for bike/pedestrian projects. Cap Metro has responded very well to hosting the Lance Armstrong Bikeway and the Upper Boggy Creek Bikeway, even pledging financial support. Austin's City Council has demonstrated its commitment to bike/pedestrian projects by building our new Pflugger bike/pedestrian bridge and with its support of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway. City Council has also heard of the importance of completing the Pflugger Bridge, and has instructed the various planning teams to work more effectively to come up with the solutions to the Seaholm District debate. Also gaining adherents is the idea of a citywide Masterplan to integrate the Bike Plan with other park and trail projects, determine costs, prioritize projects, determine funding sources.
Back to the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, Wilbur Smith and Associates, Bike/ Ped Program Coordinator Linda DuPriest, and Bike Planner subconsultant Charlie Gandy have come up with a prelininary alignment and facility design that looks remarkably similar to the vision that Robin Stallings, Craig Nasso, Ellie Fowler and myself imagined. On the west side, AISD representatives are very interested in an off-road facility past S. F. Austin High School. On the east side, an off-road section from Shady Lane would ramp up to the Montopolis Bridge accessing the Colorado River Park and Colorado River Trail. Along 5th St. and the Cap Metro rail ROW in East Austin, a significant portion of the Bikeway from IH 35 to Martinez will be off-road. The City of Austin has just pledged to pave 5th St. at Cafe Mundi improving access and essentially kicking off bikeway construction.
In downtown Austin, prospects are less certain. Fourth St. was proposed to host a mid-street two-way bike-boulevard from Trinity to San Antonio. The Austin Warehouse District Association members were not moved by the idea of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, and voted against the proposed 4th St. Bikeway. Ruta Maya, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Andrew Shapter Photography and others supported a 4th St. alignment, but architect Sinclair Black swayed the membership with Great Streets' unfunded 4th St. plan. This plan calls for limited accomodation of bikes on a 3-foot-wide safe-zone. The message was simply, "not here". We were clearly unsuccessful in conveying the vision of a transformed pedestrian-friendly 4th St. with a "signature" bike facility.
Other problem areas current and future include TXDOT plans for HOV lanes off both MOPAC and reconstructed IH 35. Old West Austin Neighborhood Association is concerned with possible HOV lanes off MOPAC that may impact possible bikeway route from S.F. Austin Drive to Amtrak, including the West Lynn Viaduct. TXDOT preliminary plans show IH 35 HOV lanes ramping into downtown on 4th St., a clear conflict not only with the bikeway but also future light rail.
Problems that have a long history, and have yet to see improvement include the impassable Shoal Creek Trail, the unfinished Ullrich Pipeline Bridge over Shoal Creek, and Shoal Creek rail trestle with its historic designation reccommendation. In part due to Ullrich water pipeline problems, the Shoal Creek Trail is impassable from Town Lake to 5th St. The trail has needed improvements since the 1982 Shoal Creek flood. Improvements may be on the way with $1 million allocated from returned Cap Metro funds. At the same site, the Ullrich Bridge, completed in June 2000, still lacks the ramps and stairways down to the Shoal Creek Trail, as well as pathways to West Ave. on one side and Nueces on the other. Also, due to the design assumption that the trestle would be demolished, there is no current plan to connect the Shoal Creek Trail under the trestle and Ullrich Bridge. Until a new design is arrived at and constructed, Shoal Creek Trail users will have to ramp up to the elevation of the bridge and then descend back to the trail.
Warehouse District Business concerns notwithstanding, 4th St. through downtown will likely be the bikeway route for the foreseeable future, at least until Cesar Chavez becomes a two-way street. Though a sidewalk crossing of the 4th St. IH35 crossing is already funded, plans are presumably on hold to incorporate the bikeway IH 35 crossing. 4th St. must be the route from IH 35 to Trinity at least, but 4th is currently blocked due to Convention Center Construction. Will bicycle access need wait for completion of the Hilton Hotel as well? Or will 4th St be partially reopened this November when the City has promised that all closures will end? And when the CSC detour ends, will 4th St. still host "overflow traffic" that the current detour funnels into the Warehouse District?
Somehow neighborhood and bicycle advocates need to become more creative in focusing attention on needed projects. There are a number of groups and interests who have been concerned about the Shoal Creek Trail, and succeeded in winning the provision of the Ullrich Bridge. But a year after that bridge is finished, wire cutters are a nescessary tool for both crossing that bridge or riding the Shoal Creek Trail. Clearly we can do better. Likewise, a safe IH 35 crossing combined with completed Ullrich Bridge approaches could have opened up a substantial portion of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway fully one year ago.
To continue to see no more than 1% riding bikes, continue the staus quo and see a functional bikeway sometime after the Hilton opens up. To have a chance at reaching 8% by 2010, we had better get to work at making our facilities function even before we are able to fully fund and construct each and every final plan.
Jeb Boyt, April 13, 2003
There is a lot of planning activity for the LACB right now. The Parks Board is preparing to make a recommendation for the alignment west of Shoal Creek. This will include the Seaholm area, YMCA area, and S.F. Austin Blvd west of Cesar Chavez. After a discussion at the Land and Facilities Committee last month, City staff was asked to address several questions. The LACB has not yet been brought back before Land & Facilities. Land & Facilities will make a recommendation on the alignment to the Parks Board as a whole.
Urban Transportation has also been reviewing the alignment and has comments and recommendations. I will allow someone more informed than I to speak on the status and substance of their review.
The principal issues for discussion are -
- Should the LACB be routed along the Shoal Creek Trail to Cesar Chavez Blvd?
- What is the preferred alignment for the Seaholm area? City staff is recommending an off-street alignment along the north side of Cesar Chavez (would require at least three street crossings). Others have recommended an alignment along 3d Street (would require an at-grade crossing of the U.P. tracks west of Lamar, a Bowie Street tunnel, or some other crossing of the U.P. tracks).
- How will the proposed alignment relate to the extension and completion of the Pfluger Bridge?
- What is the preferred alignment west of Lamar?
- What is the preferred alignment west of Cesar Chavez along S.F. Austin Blvd., on or off street?
Put this calendar on your website! Copy and paste the following code:
To link to the calendar on its own page, use the address: http://BicycleAustin.com/calendar
I've tried without success to get local groups to add their events to this calendar (Bike Texas, the Yellow Bike Project, City's Bicycle Program, Bike Austin, etc.)
If you'd like to help edit the calendar, or at least add your group's events to it, then please let me know!
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