'Trail to nowhere' funded by city, stimulus money
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The so-called “trail to nowhere” is a 3.2 mile hike-and-bike project proposed to be constructed along North Walnut Creek.
As YNN reported Thursday, the trail has been riddled with problems from its conception. Construction on the trail started last summer after spending more than five years in the design phase.
Mayor Leffingwell initially thought the project would take two years to complete, but 11 years have passed since then with the city spending $1.5 million on the unfinished project so far.
The troubled trail is having an effect on the surrounding neighborhood as well.
Javier Bonafont leads the homeowner's association for the northwest Austin neighborhood near Balcones District Park, where the trail is slated to begin.
“If the interstate highway system were built to this scale, we’d be building it in the year 37000,” he said. “A three-mile trek should be pretty easy.”
The trail would connect the neighborhood to places like Austin Community College, St. David's Hospital and The Domain shopping area.
“Bike access to and from this neighborhood is extremely difficult. I mean, you take your life into your hands trying to cross over Mopac in any situation,” Bonafont said.
Mike Long is one of the first subcontractors on the trail. He dealt with the list of problems that arose on site in the few months the trail was under construction last year.
“The city of Austin has really good intentions, but you know this was not managed very well,” he said. “We had to come out multiple times on this job just because of the changes that were made. Things that were left off the plans that weren’t right to begin with.”
After paying local architecture firm Larson, Burns, Smith $750,000 over a period of five years to draw and revise the design plan multiple times, the project moved forward to the construction phase in 2009.
The federal government allotted two million dollars in stimulus money to pay for the trail as part of its "Put America to Work" program.
After little progress, members of the federal government flew down to Austin this past spring to audit the work done on the trail. The funding stayed intact, but the city dropped the design firm and planned to essentially start over.
Jon Hurt is with the Texas Department of Transportation, the department overseeing the stimulus money used for the project.
“The idea of concept to concrete taking nine years is not unusual,” he said.
The project, as of now, is slated to be completed by May of 2013.