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City begins work on new urban trails

Monday, August 29, 2016 by Cate Malek

Two new urban trails are set to begin construction next March, providing more options for Austinites who prefer to go carless.

Teams should complete work on the Upper Boggy Creek Trail, serving neighborhoods on the east side, in November 2017. And work on a new section of the 30-mile Violet Crown Trail North, located in the Oak Hills Neighborhood off of MoPac in South Austin, should be finished in March 2018. Both trails will be wide, multi-use trails, meant as much for people commuting by foot or bike as for recreation, according to city staff who provided an update on the projects at the Aug. 17 meeting of the Environmental Commission.

But the two trails will also require that about 100 trees be cut down. and they will increase the risk of flooding. Public Works Department staff told commissioners that the department plans to work with the communities surrounding the trails as well as with commissioners to reduce environmental damage.

The Upper Boggy Creek Trail will connect East 12th Street to the Martin Luther King Street Transit Station, running by the Downs Mabson baseball fields and the Sustainable Food Center garden. The trail has been highly anticipated by local community groups, said Nadia Barrera, Austin’s Urban Trails program manager.

“Overwhelmingly, most of them said, ‘When are you going to be finished?’” Barrera said.

Although the trail is short – about a half mile – the project will cost about $1.6 million in total. Project funding has already been secured from previous bond proposals, as well as from the quarter-cent fund and a grant from the Transportation Alternatives Program.

The trail will require removal of about 30 trees, which members of the Environmental Commission remarked was a large number for such a short trail. But the trail’s designers have said that they have walked the area a number of times and that this was the best possible route for the trail.

“We really tried to thread the needle,” said Chad Crager from the Public Works Department.

The trees will either be transplanted or replaced. The project also includes plans for flood mitigation, since the asphalt trail will lead to increased flood risk for the neighborhood.

This section of the trail will be 14 feet wide and made of asphalt. Due to popular demand, it will be separated into two sections, one for pedestrians and one for bikes, Barrera said.

The Violet Crown North segment, which will require the removal of 75 trees, is part of a 30-mile-long trail. This section will stretch for about 1 mile from Home Depot Boulevard to MoPac, ending at the parking lot of the Randalls grocery store at 6600 S. MoPac. It will be an 11-foot-wide trail made from gravel held together with a binder. Although there is currently a trail already in this location, it can be used only for mountain biking and can’t accommodate commuter traffic.

There is concern over a lack of parking, staff told the commission. To resolve the problem, the Public Works Department is attempting to secure part of the Randalls parking lot for trail users.

The Upper Boggy Creek project will return to the Environmental Commission in December for approval of the trail width.

This story has been corrected. The original story said that the trails would lead to increased flooding risk. But the plans call for flood mitigation strategies that will eliminate that risk.

Photo courtesy of the city of Austin.

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