Park / Riverside Drive
more on Roadway
Following lobbying by park
advocates, the City embarked on a plan to redevelop the area
around the Palmer Events Center, making it more park-like.
The park advocates' biggest request was for the street
Riverside Drive to be removed, in order to connect the
parkland that exists north and south of that street. That
particular request didn't fly, although the City did agree
to reduce Riverside from four lanes to two narrow
The reason this project merits a
page on BicycleAustin is that cyclists' needs were ignored
throughout the planning process. For example, the new,
smaller Riverside Drive lacks bike lanes -- which are even
more important now that motorists don't have another lane to
move to in order to pass bicyclists. But even more
disappointing was that this re-do of the roadway with
inadequate bike facilities was pushed through without the
knowledge of cyclists, or even the Urban Transportation
Here's UTC commissioner Patrick
Goetz's take on this blunder (Nov. 2005):
Both Linda DuPriest and Colly Kreidler (COA
bike/ped coordinators) attempted several times to provide
input to this project and were told each time that "we're
not ready for input from bicyclists yet". Then a
completed plan emerged that couldn't be changed any more
"this far along in the process". Bicycling advocates were
purposefully shut out of the process -- if you don't
believe me, ask Colly. This was a backroom deal hammered
out between the ANC and one or two city staffers who let
themselves be intimidated into believing that they would
fired if they didn't do exactly as the ANC commanded.
I've been to ANC meetings and am very familiar with their
modus operandi: they endlessly harrass and CAF (a formal
complaint sent to city council) staff until eventually
some people crack and do what the ANC tells them to
despite their own better judgement -- these neighborhood
crazies bullies will make life living hell for any COA
staffer who doesn't agree with their vision of
racially/class/use segregated 1950's suburbs. You saw
with your own eyes how apologetic Robert Holland was
after this stinky dead woodchuck was hauled out from
under the porch and into the light of day. The only
reason we finally managed to get some bicycle facilities
into the plan is that I found out about what was
happening through a casual comment made by my girlfriend
(who heard about it from the ANC), and put the issue on
the UTC agenda. After the UTC meeting, everyone found out
about what was happening and Sondra Creighton got
involved to try and straighten things out. Not even the
ANC has the nerve to CAF the director of Public Works....
At least for now, the price of bicycling is eternal
vigilance. You can bet that some "stakeholders" are
already whispering into the ear of Public Works staff
that adding the bike trail is going to cost too much and
that this money would be better spent on "reclaiming land
for surface parking". No, I'm not making this up. At the
meeting that Eric and I both attended, one of the ANC
crazies kept talking about "reclaiming land for surface
parking" and suggested repeatedly that there was no room
for bike lanes because including a toxic coal tar-coated
surface parking lot in the park plan was more
Update from Eric Anderson (Jan. 2006):
Passing on good news regarding Town Lake Park
(TLP) and Riverside Drive. Town Lake Park funding and
contract was approved last Thursday by City Council. This
means that ALL of the 11th hour modifications to the
Riverside Drive roadway and TLP bicycle circulation items
that were hashed out are part of the funded and approved
Approved TLP phase II bike accommodations/
improvements are these:
- 12 ft central spine trail connecting Riverside
Drive and Dawson at Barton Spring Road along current
- east-bound (off-street) 12 ft bike lane from
Dawson parking lot to east of traffic circle
- appropriate signage and pavement markings
reflecting one-way bikeway(s)
- curb-cuts east of traffic circle/ west of Bouldin
Creek, and other modifications to 8 ft north Riverside
Dive sidewalk to function as interim shared-use
sidewalk allowing west-bound bike travel
- curb-cut at Lee Barton Drive serving Pfluger
Bridge ingress and egress
- concrete staining from Pfluger bridgehead to Lee
Barton Drive curb-cut marking pathway onto and off
bridge to Lee Barton Drive/ Riverside Drive
Clearly the work is not done. Still hanging over this
project is the reality that both the Riverside Dr.
project and TLP project planning processes proceeded with
inadequate participation by the bicycling community, UTC
and COA bike Program. Unfortunately, we still confront
this same institutional dysfunction with the 7th St.
Gateway project, Mexican American Cultural Center, and
sadly un-accomplished circulation improvements that were
requested at the Triangle project.
Future Town Lake Park improvements identified
- separate off-street 12 ft westbound bike lane from
at least east of traffic circle to West Bouldin
- separate 12-16 ft bridge over West Bouldin Creek
for Town Lake Trail, allowing existing West Bouldin
Creek bridge-deck to primarily serve west-bound
- new sidewalk on south side of Riverside Drive from
Lee Barton Drive to West Bouldin Creek bridge and TLP
"central spine trail?
- Town Lake Park "loop trail" creating off-street
bikeway from 1st St./Drake Bridge to Bouldin and
To orient yourself, see this schematic pertaining to
TLP phase II improvements depicted on Austin Chronicle
On to the next challenge!, and remember Pfluger Bridge
extension project "center arm alignment" to be considered
by City Council on Thursday, Feb. 2.
From: Larry Akers
Subject: Town Lake Park funding and construction
contract resolutions -- passed by City Council!!
Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2006 15:53:23 -0600
I am very pleased to announce that last Thursday City
Council passed resolutions to fully fund Town Lake Park
Phase Two construction and to issue the construction
contract. All the add items were funded, including plant
up-sizing, the water intake structure (from Town Lake),
and pedestrian features around the pond, all of which
were up in the air for a while.
At the meeting I expressed my thanks to staff and
Council for assembling and supporting the entire package.
The mayor gave special thanks to Ranger Excavation for
their donation of a half million dollars of in-kind work
to the project, that being the excavation of the wet pond
and construction of the observation hill already on the
My understanding is that all the elements of the
interim bike plan that we hammered out last fall, and
that were not already implemented in the Riverside
roadwork contract, were funded and will be part of the
Phase Two construction contract. Kudos to everyone who
was involved in that effort.
This day has been a long time coming. Construction
itself should commence within six weeks and be completed
in Spring of 2007. It will be beautiful.
Well done, everyone.
Friends of the Parks Stakeholder Representative
Town Lake Community Park Project
Some historical info about this project:
support of Town Lake Park vis a vis DAMP
* (affilliated with Friends of the Parks)
Tel: (512) 451-1050 ext.
205 (office) | 443-1036 (home)
| (512) 451-1622 (fax)
2311 Ridgeview Austin,
- The long-awaited staff report on the Downtown Access
and Mobility Plan study is scheduled to be presented to
City Council at its July 18 meeting. The staff
recommendations propose as an interim measure to retain
Riverside Drive as a two-lane, two-way commuter roadway
through the heart of Town Lake Park. Removing this
roadway between the north entrance to the new Palmer
Events Center and the railroad bridge to the west is a
cornerstone of the Town Lake Park Master Plan and was the
enabling compromise that allowed the site of the new
Palmer Events Center and parking garage to be used
without destroying the viability of our new central park
on Town Lake. Now that the buildings are complete, staff
has avoided studying what measures would enable the road
to be closed with minimal impact, and in the absense of
this analysis are proposing to renege on the compromise
by retaining Riverside as a two-lane, two-way road.
- Project stakeholders concerned about the park now
appeal to you to help us save Town Lake Park.
- As you are probably aware, the Town Lake Park Master
Plan was developed by professional planners with input
from hundreds of citizens, endorsed by all stakeholder
groups, and adopted by Council in 2000 as the site
development plan for the district encompassing the new
Palmer Events Center, Long Center for the Performing
Arts, Town Lake Park, and the on-site parking garage. The
park will include a rich variety of features, including a
splendid children's garden, a major interactive water
feature, a trail system interconnected with other trails
in the area, picnic grounds, peaceful pecan groves, a
great meadow, a wildflower hill, ponds and other water
features, a great many trees and other plantings,
informal gathering and performance spaces, and a rich
tapestry of artwork establishing the area as a cultural
park and relating well to the new facilities in the area
as well as the Daugherty Arts Center.
- The plan requires closing the portion of Riverside
Drive through the heart of the park to create a
pedestrian-friendly, recreation-friendly park
environment. Removing the road removes the barrier
separating parkland north and south of Riverside adjacent
to Auditorium Shores and allows a unified design for the
park. Retaining the road not only disrupts the design,
but it consumes a vast amount of park space. This
includes not only the right-of-way, but also a large band
along the road that becomes inhospitable for recreational
use. (How many people do you see enjoying Zilker Park
within 50 yards of Barton Springs Road? Town Lake Park
does not have the luxury of Zilker's abundant acreage.)
Furthermore, exposing park users and pedestrian and
bicycle commuters to motor commuter traffic in the heart
of the park is a clear public safety hazard. Casualties
- The Riverside closure and related issues should be of
particular significance to bicycle commuters. Not only
does the park's trail system cross the path of Riverside,
it does so as the trails converge on the southern Pfluger
Bridge approach. The bridge would certainly be safer and
more pleasant if it didn't land on a commuter road.
Furthermore (see below) constructing the new Cesar Chavez
flyover would relieve a significant traffic delay on
Cesar Chavez caused by lengthy red cycles at B.R.
Reynolds that are necessary to accommodate pedestrian
crossings. Relieving this problem would create nearly
enough additional westbound traffic lane capacity to
offset the loss of Riverside Drive. There is symbiosis
all over the place!
- Closing Riverside Drive will not be a traffic
management calamity. Previous traffic studies establish
that closing the road can occur under current traffic
loads with no significant impact. The DAMP study itself
shows that closing the road to eastbound through traffic
improves access time to downtown. Future additional
westbound traffic loads, which are the only justification
for retaining the road at all, could be accommodated by
other improvements in the area. Most of these
improvements would be less costly than what staff
proposes ($2.2 million for Riverside renovation), and
pursuing these instead would allow the park to be unified
- Various mitigating measures have been suggested to
the City that the stakeholders believe will more than
offset the loss of Riverside for westbound commuting.
These include lane capacity improvements (some very
inexpensive) at the westbound approach to Lamar along
Barton Springs Road, a more efficient pedestrian crossing
of Cesar Chavez at B. R. Reynolds (inexpensive),
completing the Pfluger Bridge flyover across Cesar
Chavez, allowing a westbound left turn off Drake Bride
onto Cesar Chavez (moderately inexpensive), and one of
several inexpensive measures for streamlining flow
through the Barton Springs Road/South First intersection.
A creative staff could identify other mitigating measures
if they chose to.
- But under political pressure from a few downtown
business interests, staff has so far resisted studying
these mitigating measures. To date, they have not given
proper weight to the tremendous value to the city of
creating Town Lake Park as envisioned. Staff has bent
over backward to find and study mitigating measures to
partly offset the significant delays that would be caused
by implementing the Great Streets proposal downtown. They
need to give the same consideration to our new central
park. Closing Riverside for our park would not increase
traffic loads any more than any of the major new downtown
development projects. Where are our municipal
- But all is not lost. The City Manager has now
recognized the park has been ill served in the DAMP study
effort and has pledged to perform the requested modeling
(although unfortunately delaying the work until after the
study is submitted to Council). Phase Two of the Town
Lake Park development, which encompasses the parkland
between Barton Springs Road and Riverside west of the new
Palmer center, has been designed and will proceed into
construction this fall and next year. Modifications to
Riverside have been accepted by staff that will allow
this phase of the park to be developed more or less as it
would be if the critical stretch of Riverside were being
removed. This will allow staff the time to perform the
modeling of mitigation measures that should justify the
removal of the roadway and to identify alternative road
improvements that will absorb the redirected traffic as
the demand ramps up. We should be able to remove the
remaining lanes through the park as part of the Phase
Three park development north of Riverside.
- But getting this accomplished requires a statement of
political will from the Council now, and we need to
supply some fuel. Ask the Council to do the
- 1) Recognize and communicate to staff the value to
the city of creating a new central park on Town Lake
rather than a scenic backdrop for a commuter road,
- 2) Recognize that a commuter road through the heart
of an intensely used park is a public safety hazard, and
that closing the road is crucial to the viability of the
- 3) Insist that the current recommendation to retain
Riverside Drive as a two-way commuter road as embodied in
the Phase Two park design is a short-term measure only,
and that closing this short stretch of Riverside in time
for Phase Three park development is the only acceptable
- 4) Recognize that Riverside Drive is only one
solution to the marginal westbound road capacity problem
envisioned in the Town Lake area in the DAMP study, and
that it is not the best one. It is a ridiculously costly
alternative, coming with a $2.2 million capital expense,
the even more costly loss of world class parkland, and
its danger to public safety. Some other satisfactory
solutions would be less costly. Others would have extra
benefits of their own. We do not need to sacrifice our
central park to remedy a marginal lane capacity
- 5) Direct staff to quickly identify alternative
traffic management measures so that Riverside can be
closed by the time Phase Two of the park is
- 6) Direct staff to immediately implement traffic
calming measures along Riverside Drive through the park.
Designating this stretch of roadway as a Park Road will
satisfy guidelines for implementing traffic calming and a
lower speed limit.
- If you cannot speak at the City Council presentation,
please contact your Councilmembers to deliver this
- City Council and City staff supported and adopted the
closure of Riverside in the master plan, when they needed
it to get public support for their new event center site.
They now need to honor that commitment. It is unfortunate
that Austin has no great central park. It would be
shameful to turn away from the opportunity to create one
on Town Lake now. Doing so does not require traffic
delays, and even if it did, it would be worthwhile.
- We often use Portland as a model for urban design.
Portland spent hundreds of millions to destroy a
interstate highway along its river so that a riverfront
park could be created. Austin needs only tear up a short
stretch of a secondary roadway to achieve the goal of a
great central park on Town Lake. If we can't manage that,
we do not deserve consideration as a decent city, much
less a great one.
- Town Lake Park will make a major statement about our
Austin and its values, no matter how we develop it. We
can choose to create a great park that we will enjoy for
many generations, a place we can call the heart of our
City, a place that will yield benefit for the city far
beyond the investment we make in it. Or we can state for
all time that shaving a few seconds off our commuting
time is what we value most highly in our urban
environment and what we demand of our collective efforts
at civic achievement. The truth about our City will be
reflected and magnified in whatever choice we make.
- Larry Akers
- Friends of the Parks Stakeholder
- Town Lake Community Park Project
writes on July 19, 2002
- Why on earth do cyclists need to cross this street
anyway? There is nothing to go over to? Nothing a
crosswalk couldn't take care of. What good would it do
for events (except reduce events over time) as trucks and
stage equipment would have to invade regular park space,
where as the wide street acts as it's throughway.
Marathons and the like would have as much space as an
airline seat area.
- While rerouting thousands of autos (spelled "auto
safety") for 5 bicycle crossings a day may be your wet
dream, or a vendetta, it is a nightmare for thousands of
- If those lanes were narrowed it would make it UNSAFE.
The traffic would turn congested on an otherwise sane
route. The line of cars backed up would extend back into
the park area. Un-responsible drivers would be more apt
to beat lights, or gun for position.
- Your mindset has been so distorted from the incessant
congestion in the last few years that a normal roadway to
you seems barren and un-needed. The fact is that that
intersection and roadway are one of the last remaining
properly functioning right-of-ways in town. Why do want
to destroy the last remaining "peace" of roadway on
writes on Nov, 2002:
"Many Austinites contributed to the development of the
Town Lake Park Masterplan (including many bicyclists), but
final plans demonstrate that the needs of transportation
bicyclists were not incorporated into that plan!" (see the
this quote come from)
Parks Board Member, writes on Dec. 16, 2002
I want to thank Eric for his comments on the funding and
implementation of bicycle projects. However, I was surprised
to see his assertion that the Town Lake Park Master Plan did
not serve the needs of transportation cyclists. I have
worked with PARD staff and the park designer to provide for
transportation cyclists, principally by ensuring a
connection between South 5th/West Bouldin Creek Trail and
the Town Lake Trail/Pfluger Bridge. What further
transportation concerns need to be
writes on Dec. 16, 2002:
What Jeb says may be true, but I have heard little and
seen nothing regarding accommodations for bicycles. I have
not yet heard from Town Lake Park designer Earl Broussard,
of TBG Partners, in response to a January 2002 community
meeting regarding these Town Lake Park concerns.
The single accomodation I can point to are curb-cuts at
Bouldin installed after the fact thanks to Tommy Eden and
The facts are these:
* After considerable input from bicyclists into
the Town Lake Park Masterplan, the final plan does NOT
contain the provisions Jeb referred to.
* Revisions may have been made since, but I am aware
of no plan, timeline, funding schedule, etc.
* In 2000, Bouldin St. is vacated between Riverside
and Barton Springs for construction of the Community
Events Center and the 1200 car garage.
* In spite of vacating a critical bike route (Drake
Bridge to Bouldin), these projects, landscaping, and
roadways are being completed with NO accommodation to
* Any future accomodation has not been communicated to
I belabor this point because it demonstrates the
institutional failure of our city to accomodate bicycle
transportation. My short list (included in the original
post): delayed Boggy Creek Greenbelt, IH35 crossing at 4th
St., and Pleasant Valley bike lanes; unrepaired Lake Austin
Blvd bike lanes; Pfluger Bridge redesign delays; and Shoal
My point is simply this: though our goals seem to be
articulated, accomodation of bicycle transportation is
provided as a matter of convenience and influence rather
So what else is new?
writes on Dec. 16, 02
- HA HA HA. I'm laughing my ass off. This is
EXACTLY what I said would happen. They suckered the
support from the bike community only to help support and
carry out their own agenda. A one lane Riverside SUCKS.
The park is a TBG $scam. ~Golden Gate Park give me a
(Nothing personal Eric and Jeb -- thanks for the
update. Good job Tommy.) :-)
writes on Aug 29, 2003
Dear bike friends:
- Please peruse this Action Alert (pasted up below)
Submitted by Larry Akers/ Friends of the Parks: Action
Alert: Why Town Lake Park will never be built. My
- It appears that a wonderfully masterplanned Town Lake
Park has now gone from bad to worse. Bad was January of
2002 when it became clear that accomodation of bicycles
in the Town Lake Park design, and constuction plans was
simply FORGOTTEN, ommitted!
- Meeting with Earl Broussard in January 2002,
Landscape Architect in charge of overall design
implementation, assured adjacent stakeholders, council
members, and parks board members that bicycles were to be
accomodated at some point in the future (but not now).
This despite the vacating of the most heavily traveled
bike route (Bouldin - between Barton Springs and
Riverside) in South Austin.
- Town Lake Park is an example of a very good plan, but
somehow the word BIKE got erased from the
- The question I would also ask is this: How did one of
Austins most heavily used bike routes get vacated, with
no provision for an alternate route, and no provision for
its replacement within Town Lake Park phase I
- So we wait for Phase II, and a - hard edge - bike
route linking Drake Bridge, Bouldin, Dawson, future
Bouldin Creek Bikeway, and Pfluger Bridge: a future Town
Lake Park loop trail (which could have been easily built
as a interim crushed granite trail during phase I; at a
fraction of the cost of that nice canopied walk(bike)way.
Silly, Silly, Silly!).
- Now: Worse is hearing that that - future - will never
- Time for some squeaky wheels? Be sure to bookmark
this COA web-page: group email form to send your message
to the whole council. http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/council/groupemail.htm
writes in Aug. 2003
- ASK YOUR CITY COUNCILMEMBERS WHY TOWN LAKE PARK
WILL NEVER BE BUILT.
- Town Lake Park was to be our new central park,
adjacent to the Palmer Events Center and Town Lake.
- Proposition 11 in 1998 authorized a dedicated rental
car tax to fund CONSTRUCTION of the park and the events
center and garage in a venue district.
- But staff is redirecting all future park construction
funding to underwrite the events center operations and
- The First Broken Promise: Timely Park
- In 2000, staff convinced project stakeholders to
divert $8.3 million of park construction money to fund
unanticipated civic center construction costs. In
exchange, $18.5 million in park construction funding
would be made available by 2006.
- Now, aside from Phase One, the civic center
landscaping, staff proposes to make not a single dollar
available before 2006, and likely beyond.
- The Second Broken Promise: Phases Three and Four
(north of Riverside)
- This spring, staff took Phases Three and Four
completely out of the financial plan for the venue
project. The money is diverted to underwrite events
center operations and create a capital account for events
- Neither Proposition 11 nor its supporting literature
mentioned events center O&M or renovation.
"Construction" was what the voters approved.
- The Third Broken Promise: Phase Two (south of
Riverside, west of Palmer)
- The current project account and accepted donations
can easily fund Phase Two. Bids for construction were
taken and came in well under budget.
- But staff first ordered the Phase Two contract to be
rebid, and then before this could be accomplished, the
City Manager's budget placed the project on hold for at
least two years. During this time, the money that was to
fund Phase Two will be used to cover the events center's
negative cash flow. In two years, the park will cost more
to build than it would have to build now and maintain,
but no matter: the project account will be reduced to
where it can no longer fund the park construction.
- Fiscal Crisis?
- While human services, libraries, and parks are
suffering enormous staff reductions and increased demand,
the Convention Center Department loses 1.7% of its staff
despite reduced bookings for the Convention Center and
- How do they manage?
- By subsidizing their operation with diverted park
- How do they justify it?
- . By citing a budget priority document that was
developed and adopted without consulting or notifying the
project stakeholders. . By lumping the park with other
deferred CIP projects, even though it is funded through a
dedicated, non-CIP revenue stream. . By exaggerating the
interim park maintenance projections with one-time
- Who says what to whom?
- All the park's fiscal questions are directed to
Convention Center staff.
- Does it make sense? Palmer and Town Lake Park were to
be symbiotic, to bring visitors and events to each other.
Palmer attendance is down partly because the park does
not complete the attendance experience. And we continue
to be a major city without a central park. How well that
supports our public health and economic development!
- So ask your City Council why Town Lake Park will
never be built.