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Board gets first look at Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk project

Monday, November 17, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Members of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Board got their first look at some of the preliminary plans for a $15 million boardwalk project along the shores of Lady Bird Lake. Mayor Will Wynn and supporters of Austin’s park system proposed a boardwalk last year (In Fact Daily, April 25, 2007) to complete the hike-and-bike trail around the lake. Gaps in the trail currently force joggers onto the road along some busy parts of Riverside Drive.


“We’re at a conceptual point in the project. We’re going to be scrubbing this and getting more detail,” said architect Al Godfrey. “What we’re really focusing on at the moment is where does this go…generally speaking…what construction systems make sense, and what does the budget look like.”


The design team has divided the proposed boardwalk into seven segments, starting at the offices of the Austin American Statesman on the west and running east along the lake to a point along Lakeshore Boulevard east of IH-35. Because some portions of the lakefront property are privately owned, designers are planning to build the boardwalk along those stretches out over the lake itself instead of along the shore.


The team presented cost estimates based on the preliminary conceptual design to the Parks Board’s Land, Facilities and Programs Committee Monday night. “This is our best guess today, but it’s also a very difficult time in which to make estimates,” cautioned project manager David Taylor. “We’re very hopeful that we’re seeing numbers stabilize, but we’ve been through quite a period where they’ve been moving up at quite a fast pace.”


The total estimated cost at this time is $14.8 million. The most expensive portion of the plan is a 1,500-foot long stretch of boardwalk over the water, which designers estimate would cost $3.4 million. For two segments where the private landowners have committed to participating in the financing of the project, there would be no cost to the city.


The cost estimates for each segment show significant variations, depending upon the type of construction necessary. Portions of the boardwalk on land or shallow water would use smaller piers for support and would cost less. Portions along dry land are the least expensive, while portions constructed entirely over water are the most expensive due the need for larger support piers.


“We’ve always talked about this as costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million, money we don’t have today,” said Acting Parks Director Stuart Strong. “But still, we wanted to acknowledge features which maybe we could not afford today, but we’re not leaving them behind.”


Residents of some of the properties along the lake asked the Board to ensure the design team considers all its options. While designers have purposefully mapped the proposed route of the boardwalk around private property, two residents asked them to reconsider that decision. “I appreciate you looking for land-based opportunities,” said Stephen Tittle, who lives at 1818 Lakeshore Blvd. While Tittle did not promise that, the other residents of the complex would agree to having the boardwalk on their property, he did estimate that the city could save about $1 million by putting that portion of the boardwalk on land instead of over the lake.


Riverwalk Condos resident Fred Schmidt also suggested that the design team reach out to representatives of his complex to seek alternate routes. “How valuable is it for this short stretch here to go over the water…as opposed to engaging in vigorous and passionate negotiations and dialogue with these properties,” he said. “I am in favor of this solution, but I know it’s controversial in our complex at this point.”


The Committee did not take any vote on the conceptual designs, but did request future updates on the project. “This will be in front of us for a while,” said Board Member Mark Vane. “We’re going to want to be kept in the loop.”

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