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City to get land for Shoal Creek bike bridge

Wednesday, July 3, 2019 by Jo Clifton

As a result of two bills sponsored by Rep. Donna Howard and Sen. Kirk Watson, both Austin Democrats, the city of Austin will soon have an easement on state property that will allow for construction of a pedestrian-bicycle bridge connecting Shoal Creek Boulevard to the Grove.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bills – House Bill 2977 and HB 2978 – in June and they became effective immediately because of strong support from the Legislature. Howard said via email, “It’s always a welcome relief when you get the chance to pass legislation that enables government to work better. For years, Austin has waived permit fees and helped to expedite state developments, particularly with the new Capitol Complex. Council recognized that a more efficient process benefits all taxpayers.

“By signing bills I carried with Sen. Watson, Gov. Abbott, along with the legislature, has shown that the state recognizes the unique relationship it has with Austin and has now fulfilled its end of this partnership. Now, neighbors will have the opportunity to finally realize their vision of a connected neighborhood and the state has funded Phase II of the Capitol Complex Master Plan,” she wrote.

Although the Grove property is within Council District 10, residents of District 7 who live close to the development have been anxious to have that amenity. Council Member Leslie Pool said Monday that she worked with Howard and Watson to assist in passage of the bills.

As a result of the legislation, Pool said, pedestrians and bicyclists “will have a safe way across the creek. It really is quite wonderful.”

HB 2977 amends state law to allow the Texas Facilities Commission to provide for a transfer, sale or exchange of an interest in real property from a state agency to the city.

The city agreed to give the right of way on Congress Avenue between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 15th Street to the state so the state could build a new pedestrian mall similar to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Before the two bills were passed, the city had a credit, but the Facilities Commission did not have the legal authority to exchange or transfer any state property to the city.

HB 2977 and HB 2978 facilitate allowing the city to use the credit it earned from the Congress right of way for an easement that will allow developer ARG Bull Creek Limited to build the bicycle-pedestrian bridge as previously promised.

Pool told the Austin Monitor that passage of the two bills “was a significant win for the neighbors. It will be a tremendous benefit for the people who choose to live at the Grove, for the surrounding neighborhoods and also for the bicycling and walking community.”

Pool said she has lived on Shoal Creek Boulevard since 2002 and that her neighbors and people in adjacent neighborhoods have wanted the bridge for many years.

ARG Bull Creek Ltd. is responsible for funding the bridge as well as building it, she said, noting that the developer has put up a $750,000 escrow fee to guarantee it will build the bridge within a seven-year time limit.

Pool said city staff is already working with staff from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, the owner of the State Records Center, which is providing the easement.

Photo by Lars Ploughmann made available through a Creative Commons license.

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