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CAMPO commits to study for Bergstrom Spur urban trail, transit corridor

Wednesday, June 12, 2019 by Ryan Thornton

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization approved an interlocal agreement with the city of Austin Monday for a transportation planning study of the Bergstrom Spur corridor in Southeast Austin.

The agency’s Transportation Policy Board approved $280,000 for the study in May 2018. The city of Austin will be serving as the local partner for the study, contributing $70,000 to CAMPO for related costs.

The board’s unanimous vote initiates an estimated nine-month Platinum Planning Study meant to identify required right of way acquisition and costs of the full vision for the corridor as a bicycle and pedestrian trail and potential high-capacity transit corridor.

CAMPO’s Platinum Planning Program approaches transportation projects with special attention to mixed-use development and multimodal connections, diverse mixtures of housing types, environmental impact, equity, and economic development.

The Bergstrom Spur is a six-mile, 50-foot-wide, abandoned rail corridor that runs east-west parallel to Ben White Boulevard and Burleson Road between Vinson Drive and U.S. Highway 183.

Both CAMPO and the city’s Urban Trails Master Plan identify the corridor as a good candidate for an urban trail and as a connection to the shared-use path along State Highway 71, the Country Club Creek Trail, and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

With an eye to the airport connection, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority marked the corridor for a potential high-capacity transit route in early concepts of its regional transit vision, Project Connect.

The city’s newly finalized Strategic Mobility Plan also reiterates the need for high-capacity transit and urban trail connections to the airport as it expands and prepares to serve over 30 million passengers annually by 2040. The plan also considers feeding high-capacity transit into airport circulators, such as a personal rapid transit PODCAR system, that have been suggested.

Project Connect ended up favoring a possible airport connection along East Riverside Drive, but Janae Spence, division manager of Community Services with the Public Works Department, told the Austin Monitor that Capital Metro is still interested in the idea if certain challenges could be overcome to make it a truly useful piece of the city’s public transit network.

CAMPO will select a consultant to conduct the study under the guidance of a steering committee with representation from Capital Metro, the city, the Texas Department of Transportation and other stakeholders.

The study will require the selected consultant to facilitate a minimum of three public outreach meetings and develop content related to the study to be posted on the project website for public consideration.

Prior to making suggestions, the consultant is also directed to study a wide range of planning documents and master plans in use by the city of Austin, the CAMPO region, ABIA, and the Austin Independent School District. Using that information, the consultant is to draft a concept plan complete with implementation timelines for each project and an impact analysis for each component of the study.

The study will conclude with a final report with short- and long-term suggestions for the corridor. The final report will include maps and drawings, suggested sources of funding and cost-benefit analyses for each project. Once ready, the report will go to the CAMPO board before publication.

The motion passed unanimously with Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and Bastrop County Commissioner Clara Beckett voting by proxy.

Study map area courtesy of CAMPO.

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