Austin: Longhorn Dam Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge Earmarked for Capital Improvements Under Umbrella of City’s $460 Million Mobility Project
Feature Illustration: An aerial view of the proposed wishbone configuration that will constitute the Longhorn Dam Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge from the City of Austin.
by Art Benavidez
Austin (Travis County) — City Council took the next step on the $460 million mobility project by approving on Thursday the release of funds from the 2020 Active Transportation and Safety Bond.
The measure allows two departments, Austin Transportation and Austin Public Works, to hire the initial staff necessary to begin work in local mobility projects throughout the city.
The bond was approved by Austin voters last November as Proposition B.
The Longhorn Dam Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge is one of the projects earmarked for $102 million worth of capital improvements funded by the bond measure.
According to Austin Monitor, work on the bridge is imminent and will consist of a pedestrian bridge, in a wishbone configuration, crossing Lady Bird Lake near Longhorn Dam in East Austin.
To mitigate traffic congestion, South Pleasant Valley Road will receive three protected left turn lanes in this area, along with safer on-foot crossings assisted by two pedestrian hybrid beacons and crossing islands installed north and south of the dam, the first near Canterbury Street and the second at the entrance to the Krieg Softball Complex.
The installation of flexible posts will address head-on collisions between north and southbound lanes, and other lane striping adjustments will increase distance between vehicles.
A 12-foot-wide shared use path will be built on the west side of South Pleasant Valley Road and an 8-foot-wide shared use path will be built on the east side of South Pleasant Valley Road.
The west side of the bridge will include a bicycle path that can be altered in order to support adding a fourth travel lane for transit or general purpose traffic.
By maintaining traffic signal operations and number of lanes at the critical Lakeshore Drive and Cesar Chavez Street intersections, South Pleasant Valley Road can be converted from four to three travel lanes between these intersections without affecting motor vehicle travel times while improving safety and access for people walking and bicycling
The Austin-focused website also stated that the recent winter storm caused significant delays on the project that was originally planned in January.
Austin Department of Transportation will install interim improvements on South Pleasant Valley Road with pedestrian hybrid beacons at crosswalks, along with significantly widened pathways on either side of the street to bolster walkers’ safety.
Other Projects funded by this proposition include:
$102 million for other major capital improvements including Congress Avenue urban design initiative, Barton Springs Road Bridge and corridor placemaking.
An aerial view of the Barton Springs Road Bridge, which the city has designated for capitol improvements.
$80 million for sidewalks, focusing on high and very high priority sidewalks within a quarter mile of schools, bus stops and parks. $50 million will be dedicated for new sidewalks with remaining $30 million for the rehabilitation of existing sidewalks.
$80 million for urban trails, which will focus on construction of 30% on construction of the tier I urban trails, along with the design and development of tier II urban trails and connections to address barriers to the active transportation network.
$65 million for safety and Vision Zero, a program that will reconstruct major intersections for safety by reducing high-risk speeding, along with system wide pedestrian safety improvements and rapid response projects on high-injury roadways.
$53 million to improve substandard streets focusing on publicly owned roadways that do not meet current city standards for safety, mobility and drainage. Johnny Morris Road and Ross Road will be prioritized, along with addressing Circle S and others.
$40 million for bikeways focusing on completing 70% of all the ages and abilities of the bikeway network and leveraging transit, pedestrian safety to deliver complete streets to everyone.
$20 million for safe routes to school focusing on addressing 8% of high and very high priority projects that advance hundreds of low cost, high value projects of the 4,000 identified by the city.
$19 million for local transit enhancement focusing on projects that support transit speed, reliability and access to existing local service, communication technology investments and shared micro mobility fleet expansion and parking.
$1 million for Neighborhood Partnering Program focusing on active transportation mobility projects built through community-led partnerships.
These projects are in combination with the $160 million in funds approved in November 2018 and $720 million voters approved in November 2016.
The city stated that all three rounds of funding will work cohesively “to ensure seamless connectivity improvements from Austin’s busiest roads to neighborhood streets and points in-between” as outlined by the Austin Strategic Mobility Plan.
The release of the funds will help build capacity for the projects this year to prepare for delivery in 2022-2027. City Council will authorize individual project contracts on an ongoing basis.
Director of Austin Transportation Robert Spillar said that the council’s actions allow engineers and planners to begin designing the projects included in the 2020 bond.
“That planning is critical to getting the projects to a point where they can break ground,” he stated. “Community engagement will be a critical focus of Austin Transportation, so the community is aware of the work ahead and can help shape their community’s improvements.”
Austin Public Works Director Richard Mendoza said his department is prepared to make sure that all projects are completed within the six-year timeline that was given to voters.
“It’s hard to miss the projects underway now across the city from the last three rounds of voter-approved mobility bonds,” Mendoza said. “We are excited about building on this momentum and are ready to continue the collaborative effort with our contractors, community partners and stakeholders to deliver these agility enhancements to our residents.”
Art Benavidez (Construction News Reporter, Central Texas) is a seasoned journalist with over 15-years of experience in writing breaking news and in-depth features at the local level. He honed his research and reporting skills in newspapers and magazines throughout South and West Texas along with expertise in crafting digital content as Managing Editor of New Image Marketing Research Corporation. Benevidez is a Texas native and graduate of UT-RGV.