State of Current Trail Projects

By Carrie Barrett – January 1, 2016

“The Trail is where we all connect locally,” says Susan Rankin, Executive Director of The Trail Foundation.  Literally and figuratively, her words are true for sure. As the proverbial city limits of Austin continue to expand, so too, does our need for improved trail systems both in and around the city. 

We know there are several trail projects in the works at any given time, but want to update you on three major projects that not only impact the city, but also surrounding areas for families, commuters and fitness enthusiasts alike. 

Trail Bridge at Congress Avenue

Most recently, The Trail Foundation announced its latest project to continue their enhancements of the Butler Trail at Lady Bird Lake—the Trail Bridge at Congress Avenue project—a major upgrade of the trail under the north end of the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge.

If you're familiar with the trail, then you know that area on the north side of the trail near Congress Avenue currently offers little visibility of what may be coming at you from the opposite direction. As trail traffic increases, so does the need for these types of safety and visibility improvements. As of now, the bridge is six feet wide. In their recent “State of the Trail” address, The Trail Foundation indicated that the new bridge will increase the width of the trail to 14 feet, enhance pedestrian and bicyclist safety, make the area ADA-accessible, greatly improve the visual appeal, provide connectivity with the Waller Creek area, create a beautiful site from which to view the Congress Avenue bats, and lower the city’s maintenance costs.

Currently, this project is in the design and engineering phases, and Rankin expects construction to start by Fall of 2016 and finish within a year. The good news? There will be very little disruption to the daily pedestrian activity in that area, and any trail closures would take place at night when there is little to no foot traffic. The current route will remain open until the new overwater route is completed after which the old section will be removed.

Endorsed by ADAPT (the local ADA organization), the Downtown Austin Alliance and BikeAustin, The Trail Bridge at Congress Avenue will not only increase the safety of the Butler Trail at Lady Bird Lake, but also enhance the aesthetic and beauty of our city's crown jewel.

In addition to the Congress Avenue Bridge project, The Trail Foundation continues to lead many ongoing restoration projects including Lakeshore Park on the new Boardwalk's eastern end and the Butler Trail Ecological Restoration. “My goal is to make our trail better for the thousands of residents who use it daily,” stressed Rankin. “Research has shown that humans have increased health effects from exercising in a healthy environment, and that's what we work to create at The Trail Foundation.”

Interested in giving back?

Contact The Trail Foundation and learn about the many ways to give back ( via donations, sponsorships, memorial gifts and more.

Take advantage of the generous matching pledge drive led by a commitment of $1.25 million by Mr. Robert F. Smith, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Vista Equity Partners.  Every dollar raised up to $1.25 million will be matched by a donation of his own.

The Trail Foundation and Luke’s Locker have compiled a fitness plan for beginners, as well as a few key things to know before you start—as starting out can be intimidating for beginners (just as it can be in a gym). 

While some people may not realize it, the Trail offers more than just walking, running or biking—there are a variety of exercises you can do to target different parts of your body in order to reach your fitness goals:

Here are some suggested exercises:

Arms/Chest/Back (biceps, triceps and pectorals): The Butler Trail has some stretching/exercise bars located near Vic Mathias Shores (formerly Auditorium Shores), and it recently installed some similar equipment on the east side of the Trail, near the Boardwalk Trail (see map).

Full-on pull-ups can be challenging, so start small.
·      Start out by doing 10 “beginner” pushups—pushing yourself up while leaning against the push-up bars, at an angle.
·      Slowly progress to doing 10 “intermediate” pushups, while on your knees.
·      Progress to doing 10 full pushups.

Cardio: If you’re aiming to become a runner, start slow.
·      Begin with a 5-minute walk, as a warm up.
·      Then begin jogging for 30 seconds and walking for 1 minute, then repeat. Do this for one week.
·      The following week, jog for 1 minute and walk for 1 minute, then repeat.
·      The following week, jog for 1.5 minutes and walk for 1.5 minutes, then repeat.
·      You should be able to jog a full mile in about a month.
·      After that, increase your distance by a half-mile each week.

Legs (glutes/quadriceps):
·      The exercise areas also feature step-up blocks, so start out by doing 10 step-ups (10 on each leg), then progressing each week to additional reps; to make it more difficult as your fitness progresses, you can also do box jumps (same amount of reps).
·      You can also do these exercises on the stairs located at the north end of the Pfluger Bridge (see map).
·      The stairs can also be used to do “bleacher runs.” Start by running up and down them once per day to avoid making your muscles excessively sore.

A few other things to remember:
·      There are mile markers every quarter of a mile throughout the entire 10-mile Butler Trail loop.
·      There are also restrooms available every mile or so.
·      The Trail offers a zen-like atmosphere to reduce stress and contribute to overall wellbeing (and it lends itself to an ideal environment for meditation).
·      The Trail also offers unprecedented views of Austin and its most valuable green space! (Why workout on a treadmill that is overlooking Lady Bird Lake when you can see it in “real life” while working out on the Trail!)
·      You can download this interactive map by visiting The Trail Foundation’s website.


The Violet Crown Trail

If you live in South Austin and the Hays County area, there's no doubt you'll be excited to hear about the updates on the new Violet Crown Trail. In August 2015, the first six miles of Austin's newly established mixed-use trail was unveiled for public use. The north end of the trail starts in Zilker Park as part of the Barton Creek Greenbelt and extends down to Sunset Valley near Hwy 290. The newest south trailhead entrance is accessible near the Spec’s parking lot at Brodie Lane in Sunset Valley. Along the path, clearly marked trailheads direct users along the six-mile trek and point the way to connect with the Barton Creek Greenbelt. The terrain of this trail varies from crushed granite, to rocky pathways, single track, loose rock and even creek crossings (which are mostly dry) that are perfect for a family hike, trail runners, and experienced mountain bikers. Caution: If you’re brand new to mountain biking, you may want to avoid this stretch as you may find yourself walking your bike through some of the more technical areas.  

What began as a vision of the Hill Country Conservancy in 1999 to create the first regional trail system in Central Texas, is gradually turning into a 30-mile reality of mixed-use trails for hiking and biking, green spaces, and parks for area neighborhoods. Work is being done with the cooperation of the Conservancy along with the City of Austin Public Works and Parks and Recreation Departments. Each are working on different areas of the trail under the same guidelines and safety considerations. 

Once completed, explains director of events and communications, Hannah Morgan Cofer, this trail will connect with the Veloway and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and extend further south into Hays County, where it will connect with access to area neighborhoods and their trail systems, a library, shopping center and public parks. Plus, she mentioned, the terrain of this portion of the trail will generally be wider and more user friendly for commuters, cyclists, bird enthusiasts and others who are interested in exploring these natural and protected lands. 

In fact, this year we can expect extensive work to be done and completed on the next seven miles of the trail that will connect with The Veloway Bike Path and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. 

How Can You Support the Violet Crown Trail Project?

Become a Member of the Trail or Volunteer Your Time 


MoPac Mobility Bridges

If it's true that we’re all connected, then the MoPac Mobility Bridge project is certainly helping to bridge that gap. If you’ve driven on MoPac near the 360/Barton Creek Area then you've surely noticed construction in the area that includes a new overhead bridge extending across 360. No, this isn't for another lane of cars, but rather a cyclist and pedestrian trail for those who are commuting from the Southwest area of town.

Those who are familiar with cycling in the city (and the infamous Dam Loop/Southwest Parkway area) know that you can ride your bike South towards Southwest Parkway over MoPac utilizing the very wide shoulder, but it’s virtually impossible to ride back North on MoPac. In fact, it just isn't recommended at all. 

In a joint effort between the City of Austin, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the MoPac Mobility Bridge Project seeks to alleviate this frustration and provide a safe, efficient way to and from the downtown area, Butler Trail at Lady Bird Lake and Zilker Park via new bridge systems that will take commuters up and over traffic. The project will includes approximately two miles of bicycle, pedestrian, and motor vehicle mobility improvements in the MoPac corridor from near Loop 360 to Southwest Parkway. At time of publication, progress continues on this project with expected completion date of late Spring 2016.

MoPac Mobility Bridge Project  

For more information, including updates and renderings, visit:

We all know that the city is growing at an alarming rate, but it's also important to know that there are several nonprofit and city organizations working day and night to continue to improve the quality of life for residents who love commuting safely, participating in outdoor activities, and retaining the natural beauty of Austin. 

We encourage you to support these and other projects who have a similar goal in mind: Keeping Austin beautiful (and maybe a little weird). 


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