All Aboard

Abandoned South Austin railroad on track to become city's newest urban trail

Abandoned South Austin railroad on track to become city's newest trail

Bergstrom Spur
Bergstrom Spur would revitalize a now-defunct rail path. Photo courtesy of City of Austin

A six-mile stretch of abandoned railroad could be on track to become Austin's next urban trail. Once part of the Union Pacific Railroad serving the defunct Bergstrom Air Force Base, the Bergstrom Spur would become a hybrid urban trail and public transit corridor.

On December 9, Austin Public Works Urban Trails Program and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization released a hefty, 129-page study deemed the Bergstrom Spur Platinum Planning Study Report. It provides a detailed plan for creating a multi-use public trail beginning at Vinson Drive, in Southwest Austin, heading east to US-183 near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

"This study helps us explore opportunities within the corridor to connect people in South Austin," says Richard Mendoza, director of Austin Public Works, in the report's news release.

Planners envision the Bergstrom Spur as an urban trail, with cyclists and pedestrians on a pathway split — and protected — from the street by a median. (The study points to downtown's Lance Armstrong Bikeway as a current example of this kind of hybrid use.)

Following partial railroad segments, the potential trail has been broken down into the following zones:

  • Zone 1: Begins at Vinson Drive, near St. Elmo Road, and runs west towards South Congress Avenue
  • Zone 2: South Congress Avenue to I-35
  • Zone 3: I-35 to Todd Lane
  • Zone 4: Todd Lane and East Stassney Lane/Montopolis Drive
  • Zone 5: Montopolis Drive, behind the Lower Colorado River Authority building, and through the MetCenter Commercial Park to the western edge of the Progressive Insurance property
  • Zone 6: Progressive Insurance property to 183/ABIA

More than a dozen trailheads, beginning at Philco Drive and Vinson Drive and extending towards ABIA, have also been identified as potential entry points for the trail.

Some trailheads, especially those in the eastern, less developed areas of the trail, would include parking to allow residents from across the city to access the space, while trailheads closer to downtown would allow access for nearby neighborhoods. Lighting, bathrooms, water fountains, bike repair centers, and trail maps are among the amenities planners suggest for the entry points.

In the study, planners predict the full development of the trail to take up to 20 years, assuming the project finds funding. Though a final figure wasn't included, the report does include a cost analysis for the first phase of the first portion (Zone 1), which planners estimate at $4.199 million. This first segment, predicted to be completed in 2025, would include creating a shared-use path along Vinson Road and a dual-track urban trail, from Vinson to St. Elmo Road, among other projects. 

The public can view the 129-page plan here and make comments and suggestions from now until January 6, 2021.