Rails with Trails

National Bike Month 2009 has officially ended, but for some Austinites it’s a way of life year-round. For others like myself, National Bike Month was a good incentive to try commuting by bicycle for the first time. On National Bike to Work Day, I ventured beyond my own neighborhood and rode my bike to work. It was a good experience, made more so by the fact that I learned I can use the hike and bike trail for about 90 percent of the commute. It’s ridiculous I haven’t been biking to work more often.

One under-publicized aspect of the All Systems Go! long-range transit plan is Rails with Trails, which is a plan to incorporate pedestrian and bicycle paths wherever feasible along the MetroRail right-of-way from Leander to Austin. The pathways would increase accessibility and connectivity to the MetroRail stations and provide cyclists and walkers an expanded network of safe trails. In essence, it provides another viable transportation choice for the community.

Capital Metro completed a feasibility study in 2007 with help from a broad group of stakeholders: members of the cycling community, the city, county, and others. The 32-mile Red Line was divided into 11 segments for the purposes of completing Rails with Trails. The study outlined a plan to create 31 miles of paved trails, 1.7 miles of improved sidewalks, and eight miles of additional on-street bike routes. The feasibility study is available on the Rails with Trails Web page.

Capital Metro is receiving $1.9 million in federal stimulus funding to continue development of segment #3, which extends from Highland Station north along Airport Boulevard to Morrow Street. The proposed trail will provide connectivity to both Highland Station and Crestview Station and will likely include 1.3 miles of trail and 1.6 miles of on-street bikeway. Design work on this segment will begin very soon and we hope to begin construction shortly thereafter.

Segment #1, from the Downtown Station north to Wilshire Blvd. (approx. five miles), is mostly completed, and includes the new Lance Armstrong Bikeway and Boggy Creek Trail. Some work has also been done in segment #11, which extends from Crystal Falls Road north to the Leander Station.

The City of Austin has included Rails with Trails in the revised draft city bicycle plan that will be considered by City Council soon. The bicycle plan includes other objectives to improve the link between cycling and transit–check it out here.

Our friends at the City of Austin are also working on a similar trail project along Cap Metro’s rail right-of-way from downtown Austin to downtown Manor.

4 thoughts on “Rails with Trails

  1. Tom Wald

    What is the current trail/route alignment for the Downtown to Wilshire Blvd. segment?

    I have this:
    June 12 Trail Feasibility Study CMTA_FINAL.pdf
    On pp. 18-19 (PDF pp. 22-23), there are route alignments shown. Are these the actual alignments to be implemented?

    Also, what is the current timeline for completion of this segment?

    Thank you.

    Tom Wald
    tomwald@gmail.com
    Bicycle Advisory Council
    League of Bicycling Voters
    Cherrywood Neighborhood Association

  2. JMVC_ATX

    Thanks for the interest in Rails with Trails and your service on the BAC. The answer to your question: “Are these the actual alignments to be implemented? “ is “we hope so.” The Feasibility Study conducted by Capital Metro analyzed the opportunities and constraints for a continuous shared use path along all 32 miles of the Austin to Leander MetroRail line (http://allsystemsgo.capmetro.org/downloads/Appendix%20A%20Opportunities%20and%20Constraints%20Maps.pdf). As you can see, much of the eventual alignment depends on easements, Right Of Way purchase, future TOD developments, etc. It is difficult to identify the exact final alignments until all the engineering, design and real estate work for the various segments is completed. With regard to the Downtown to Wilshire segment specifically, the plan was always to incorporate much of the existing and proposed City of Austin bike network, as there is not much opportunity in the Cap Metro right of way in this particular segment. Projects to close many of the gaps in the Downtown to Wilshire segment are underway, or are about to be underway, in the form of various city projects, i.e. the completion of the off street LAB segment between Waller Creek & IH35, and several others. The City’s Bicycle Program folks might be better able to provide you with a more definite timeline for these several projects, but rest assured we are all working together to provide better bike/ped connections between our MetroRail stations and surrounding neighborhoods. For a more detailed look at the proposed alignments, check out http://allsystemsgo.capmetro.org/downloads/Appendix%20B-E.pdf
    PDF pages 15 and 16 provide a more detailed assessment of the proposed Dowtown to Wilshire segment. Enjoy! – jmvc

  3. M1EK

    Well, considering there's almost no 'trails' being BUILT as part of this anyways (just existing stuff being rebranded), it fits perfectly. Rails without rails with trails without trails.

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