Where’s that confounded bridge (extension)?

pfluger-bridge.jpgIt’s been over four years since the City of Austin opened the Pfluger Bridge to re-route pedestrian and bicycle traffic away from the Lamar Bridge. I still see the occasional brave / stupid person using the old death-trap sidewalks, but most Town Lake regulars prefer the traffic separation and aesthetic of the newer structure.

Alternative (i.e. non-motorized) commuters have been left wanting, however, as the promised extension across Cesar Chavez disappeared without clear direction or funding. But all that is about to change, as the Public Works staff and designers will unveil “the best option for the expansion of the Pfluger Bridge” on October 22nd between 8am and 2pm on the North end of the bridge.

The original proposal called for a northwest flyover linking the Pfluger Bridge back to Lamar Blvd somewhere around 3rd St. This would seem to make sense given that it was Lamar-based traffic that led to the bridge in the first place, but this plan suffered from logistical conflicts and prohibitive expenses. More importantly, the City’s long-frustrated re-development of Seaholm and conflict over the neighboring (Lumbermen’s, now Gables) property created too much uncertainty over the area’s infrastructure to commit to a specific path in the downturn days of 2001.

Now that Austin is back to the go-go days of development, busting zoning like a $2 whore, a number of alternative routes through Seaholm have been solidified. While the specifics are somewhat varied, the alternative extensions all route traffic up to Bowie / 3rd St and have better connections with the East-West Lance Armstrong Bikeway. The Gables had also proposed a variant to the original northwest flyover that would cut through their property.

Unfortunately I’ll be out of town Saturday, so I’ll miss the big reveal in person. If I were to guess, I’d say the “best option” will turn out to be the one that cuts through the Gables (unless losing the Children’s Museum has substantially altered their plans). The City has shown a preference for projects that promote density, and this approach intertwines the extension with development of the Gables, access to Seaholm, and traffic to the Spring Project. I don’t believe any solution that leads to a virtual dead-end at 3rd St maximizes the public good for alternative commuting, although getting peds and bikers across Cesar Chavez unmolested is a substantial gain unto itself. The weakness of a 3rd St solution won’t truly be revealed until the City can figure out a way to improve bike traffic on South Lamar anyway, which is to say, it won’t.

3 Comments so far

  1. M1EK (unregistered) on October 20th, 2005 @ 4:42 pm

    I participated in several rounds (at the UTC) of bitchslapping the Seaholm people when they tried to pull the northeast arm crap on us; and the central arm isn’t much better. You already noted that it relies on a yet-to-be-built underpass and effectively dead-ends at 3rd St., but in addition:

    the BIGGEST problem with the central ‘arm’ as well as all the northeast routes previously discussed is that they are unattractive enough due to additional stops/yields that cyclists who know what they’re doing will still want to just stay on Lamar.

    If you want a facility to ATTRACT people AWAY from an existing facility, you’d better make it MORE, not LESS, convenient and safe. A bike route which turns into a sidewalk halfway through and has a bunch of crossings at which a cyclist must stop or yield is NOT attractive compared to Lamar, where you always have the right-of-way.

    I’ve been meaning to write about this for a long time but never got around to it, and now it’s too late. Story of my life.

  2. wae (unregistered) on October 20th, 2005 @ 5:20 pm

    This seemed like your cup of tea, so I was surprised not to find a write-up on your site. I’m glad to see that my casual pedestrian perspective matches up with yours on the NW arm … spitting out on 3rd and Bowie just doesn’t seem to serve anyone’s purpose unless you live there.

    There should be ample more to write about once the City shows its hand, especially if it ends up being a weak solution. If not, I’ll make it up to you by posting some anti-density fodder for you to poop on.

  3. M1EK (unregistered) on October 20th, 2005 @ 5:54 pm

    Few people remember that the purpose of this thing was to get people (peds and cyclists) off Lamar – and these were/are people who want to go from somewhere on or near North Lamar to somewhere on or near South Lamar or vice versa. Most of them don’t want to go far out of their way and through a couple of stop signs to do it. Of course the city forgot this completely with the shiny Seaholm redevelopment in the way… but amazingly enough, there will still be lots of people just trying to travel through without wanting to stop at the old power plant.

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