The Urban Trails Master Plan: Q&A with Austin Public Works Director Howard Lazarus

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The Austin City Council recently approved the Urban Trails Master Plan, which will help develop a connected and comprehensive system of urban trails and cycle tracks. To learn more about what that means for Austin residents, we sat down with Austin Public Works Director Howard Lazarus to talk about the new plan.

Q: Beyond the recreational aspect these trails will add, what will it mean from a utilitarian standpoint to have the urban trails plan in place?

A: The urban trails network is becoming an important component of our transportation network. The trails provide a safe and comfortable alternative for people on foot and people on bikes to reach their destinations, and to link-up to transit connections.  In some cases, the trails provide a parallel route to our busiest arterials, allowing the City to make decisions about which spaces to carve out for pedestrians and bicyclists and which to reserve for motor vehicles. Our urban trails are also built to be fully ADA-compliant, providing safe alternatives for our residents in wheelchairs for both transportation and recreation.

Q: Where are the trails envisioned, and what will determine where they go?

A: The trail network will create a system that connects the activity centers identified in the Imagine Austin plan, and will connect with regional trails provided by our partners in Travis and Williamson Counties, CTRMA, Cap Metro, and TxDOT. The trails will also align with the networks established in our Sidewalk and Bicycle Master Plans, creating a web of alternatives that complements the improvements being made on our roadways and transit systems.  As of today, trail projects that have either been recently completed or are in progress include the Ladybird Lake Boardwalk, the Southern and Northern Walnut Creek Trails, the Boggy Creek Trail, the Country Club Creek Trail, the Violet Crown Trail, the Austin-to-Manor Trail, the East-Line Trail, and the Oak Hill to Barton Creek (YBC) Trail. As each project is delivered, Austinites will have multiple options for local jaunts, regional trips, and fitness and recreation.

Q: What happens next from a Public Works standpoint, now that the plan has been approved?

A: Public Works will continue to work with our internal City partners (Parks and Recreation, Transportation, Watershed Protection, and the Police Department), regional agencies, neighborhood associations, developers, and conservation groups to develop both the Urban Trails Criteria Manual and the prioritized list of projects. The Urban Trails Criteria Manual will be one of the first of its kind nationwide, and will provide the technical guidelines for trail construction. The criteria will be context sensitive, and will incorporate the concerns of our stakeholders. Each project that is identified will go through an extensive outreach effort throughout the design process, and we will get as many trail projects “shovel-ready” as possible to take advantage of funding opportunities as they arise.

image via City of Austin

2 Responses to The Urban Trails Master Plan: Q&A with Austin Public Works Director Howard Lazarus

  1. Scott McHolland says:

    It sounds like, based on the comments above and from looking at the Image Austin bicycle plan, the Urban Trails Master Plan would allow me to ride my bike from my home at MoPac and Wm Cannon to a job in Downtown Austin using the Violet Crown Trail. However, the current Violet Crown Trail phase 1, which overlays the Barton Creek Trail, is a rustic trail and not ADA compliant nor is it a trail that can be used for transportation purposes. So, I don’t understand how the Violet Crown Trail can be considered an Urban Trail using the Public Works Department’s definition of an urban trail. Are there future plans for turning the Barton Creek/Violet Crown Phase 1 trail into an ADA compliant trail suitable for the transportation purposes you describe?
    Also, you make reference to the Oak Hill to Barton Creek Trail in your comments. I can’t locate any trail by the name in the Trail Directory. Can you direct me to a web location where the map of that trail is available?

    Thanks, Scott McHolland