Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk to Close 1-mile Gap in Hike and Bike Trail
To complete the full 10-mile loop of the Butler Trail, Austin’s hike and bike trail along the Colorado, runners, joggers and cyclists must currently leave the trail and navigate city streets south of the river from just east of the Austin American-Statesman complex out past I-35, including some roads with lots of traffic on a confusing-to-the-newcomer route.
The City of Austin began construction in August on an alternative that would create an unbroken hike and bike path with the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk Trail, calling it an extension of former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson’s plans for the beautification of what was then called Town Lake.
This city rendering shows the boardwalk sections on Lady Bird Lake on either side of I-35.
“Mrs. Johnson and other City leaders envisioned a pleasant shoreline path around the lake,” said David Kim Taylor, City of Austin project manager for the boardwalk. “Through the years, many citizens and staff have helped to develop the details of what is now the Butler Trail from MoPac to the Longhorn Dam.”
Limbacher & Godfrey Architects designed the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk as a 10-foot wide, 7,150-foot long trail that will extend the trail about a mile, from The Statesman building to Lakeshore Park. Jacobs Engineering Group is the lead consultant on the design and construction. The boardwalk will be constructed of primarily locally sourced concrete and galvanized steel, and more than half of it will hover 6 feet over the water. Several shade structures will dot the boardwalk, and construction will also include a 425-square-foot restroom.
City officials say the project is a sustainable one – concrete has a pre-improvement lifespan of about 50 years, and the boardwalk won’t need to be painted. Additionally, although construction may disturb some wildlife and trees (although not Heritage trees), the City plans to replant damaged areas and avoid disturbing nesting areas.
Although there has been some opposition to the project, Taylor said it has been minimal and mostly concerning the obstruction of views and the inconvenience of construction to nearby residences. However, “there has generally been broad support” for the project, he added.
City officials expect construction to be finished in April 2014, in time for summer that year. However, the project has been years in the making. The Trail Foundation completed a Riverside Boardwalk Investment Study in 2007 that suggested closing the current 1.2-mile gap in the hike and bike trail. Austin City Council approved funds in 2008 to look at preliminary design, engineering and public involvement for the trail, and in 2010, citizens approved a $17 million bond for the project. The rest of the funds for the $22 million boardwalk will come from private sources, like a $1 million donation from Roy and Ann Butler, the namesake for the trail.
The boardwalk will ensure a “safe, attractive and convenient connection for an important trail segment that has been a detour since the Butler Trail opened,” Taylor said. “This project will provide a safer transportation alternative as well as a critical link in the Butler Trail which is the core of Austin’s nationally recognized trail system.”