After years of waiting, the bicycle-pedestrian bridge along South Mopac is officially open.
The $14.5 million dollar structure was created to make cyclists safer and help ease traffic on Mopac.
“It is one of the most beautiful bridges that I've ever seen,” said Hill Abell, board chair of Bike Austin.
The bridge was built in two parts; one section over Barton Creek and another over Loop 360. It connects Tuscan Terrace all the way to the U-turn lane just north of Southwest Parkway. That’s an area where bicyclists and pedestrians lacked safe options to get around.
“We were riding off the access road and onto the shoulder of Mopac so out there with 70-75 mph traffic,” Abell said. That was one of the reasons the City of Austin and the Texas Department of Transportation helped foot the bill to construct it.
“This bridge will allow people to not get on Mopac on their bike or by foot and be able to travel completely on their own bridge across that creek,” said TXDOT spokesperson Diann Hodges.
By moving pedestrians and cyclists off Mopac, it could also help ease traffic in the area.
“By doing that, it's allowed us to expand the Mopac bridge to vehicles, so where it was just two lanes going through on Mopac, we now can have three lanes going through,” Hodges said.
During construction, crews found solid limestone in the greenbelt area was deeper than anticipated, tacking on an additional six months to the project.
“The bridge actually did take a little extra time to construct. It's being built in a very sensitive area and we were very mindful of the environment and took extra precautions to make sure that we protected the environment during construction,” said Hodges.
It is already attracting those who want to take in the sights.
“The view that you get from the bridge down into the creek is absolutely amazing,” Abell said.
The hope is it will encourage people in southwest Austin to commute in ways other than a vehicle.
“We’re going to see a lot more people coming from south and southwest Austin using the bike bridge to get downtown, to Zilker Park, to Austin High and places like that,” said Abell.
Right now, the bike path ends just north of Southwest Parkway, but the plan is to eventually connect it to another trail into the Oak Hill area.
An official bridge dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony will take place in July.