Capital Metro is scheduled to begin construction in January on a bike and pedestrian trail that will run adjacent to Airport Boulevard between the Crestview and Highland MetroRail stations.
The 0.8-mile trail will run along the west side of Airport Boulevard from Lamar Boulevard to Denson Drive and improve connectivity in the nearby neighborhoods, said Robert Okamoto, capital projects project manager for Capital Metro. Pedestrians and bicyclists will be able to share the 10-foot-wide concrete path with a dividing line for two-way use.
“It's more for the neighborhoods because the trail is off the street,” he said. “The more experienced riders will ride in the street.”
The Capital Metro board of directors approved hiring Smith Contracting Co. during its Dec. 12 board meeting for the $787,386 project. The entire project is funded by a $1.4 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant from the Federal Transit Administration. The remainder of the funds went to the design, engineering and drainage work, said Jolinda Marshall, Capital Metro's transit-oriented development planner.
She said the trail coincides with other work Capital Metro has been doing to improve accessibility to its bus stops and rail stations, such as improving the accessibility of bus stops to Americans with Disabilities Act standards and constructing bike shelters at MetroRail stations.
“The more we can give people options to get to our transit stations, the more available [the stations] are,” Marshall said.
Austin Energy will be providing 144 trees from its Heat Radiation Abatement Program, and Marshall said the trees will reduce the heat island effect, which is the result of heat emitted from pavement and vehicles. She said the trees will provide needed shade for the area.
“You'll feel a division between you and the cars, and there will be more shade,” she said.
History of trails near rail
The idea for constructing trails near the MetroRail line came out of a 2007 Rail with Trail Feasibility study that looked at the feasibility and costs involved with a shared-use trail, Marshall said. The outcome of the study suggested 11 priority segments of the trail from downtown to the Northwest Austin area, she said.
Capital Metro began meeting with neighborhood groups and bike advocacy groups to discuss which of the 11 segments were the highest priority, and Segment 3—from Morrow Street to the Highland Station near Highland Mall—topped the list. However, Marshall said Capital Metro had difficulty obtaining land for the northernmost portion of the proposed trail from Morrow Street to the Crestview Station, so the transit authority focused on the section from Lamar Boulevard to Denson Drive.
“Everyone agreed this is one of the hardest areas to get from Point A to Point B,” Marshall said.
Although Airport Boulevard already has bike lanes, Marshall said they really are for more experienced riders. Furthermore, the sidewalks are close to the street and offer no barrier between pedestrians and vehicles, she said, and the trail will replace the existing sidewalk.
“[The trail] is a safe connection whether you're 8 years old or 80,” she said. “You can bike or ride along this trail and feel safe.”
Marshall said Capital Metro plans to build more trails, but at this point it depends on the availability of funding. The trail is part of an overall planned bike path that would run from downtown to the Northwest Austin area along the MetroRail line.
She said the city already built part of the trail, which includes the Lance Armstrong Bike Trail at Fourth and Trinity streets and runs to the east side of I-35, and the Boggy Creek Trail from Webberville and Lyons roads up to 12th Street. The Upper Boggy Creek Trail will be under construction in 2013 from East 12th Street to East MLK Jr. Boulevard and will run past the MLK Jr. MetroRail Station, she said.