City to install temporary solar lighting on trail near Rainey Street before start of SXSW

The call for lighting along the hike and bike trail of Rainey Street had been heard loud and clear by the City of Austin. 

Starting Wednesday, March 8, crews will be installing temporary solar lighting and fencing along the trail where several people have died or have been seriously injured.

City of Austin crews were hard at work Wednesday along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail near Rainey Street.

"This is actually starting from Rainey and Cummings Street all the way over here, and it's going all the way to I-35," said Mitchell Gutierrez.

For Mitchell Gutierrez, this change has been a long time in the making. He has been begging for better lighting and cameras for over four years.

"I've been waiting for this moment for the longest time, you know? And if no other deaths ever occur on Rainey Street because of this, I'm going to be so happy," he said.

Mitchell is overjoyed to be seeing the work getting done with his own eyes because the years and years of fighting for it have been tough.      

It started in 2018, when his younger brother Martin Gutierrez disappeared after a night out on Rainey Street heading home on the trail. A trail that previously had no lighting or cameras on it and made it almost impossible to see at night. Martin was reported missing a week before his body was found in the lake.

Ever since that moment, the Gutierrez family has been fighting for lights and cameras to be installed. They recently teamed up with other families who lost their loved ones in similar ways including the family of Jason John. Jason disappeared in early February and was found a week later in the lake dead.

"This was a long time coming. This should have happened a very, very long time ago, but I am so happy that it's finally getting done," said Mitchell.

Currently, the city is installing temporary solar lighting in four locations along the trail with a fence.

Installation will be completed by Friday, March 10, a decision made deliberately since that is the day SXSW starts and thousands of people visit Austin.

"I didn't want to go into another week where there might be a danger of us losing an Austinite or a visitor to the city, so we just wanted to make sure there was something in place," said Council Member Zo Qadri of District 9.

The city will first work on these temporary solutions by Friday, but more permanent improvements will be made by the summer.

"We want to make sure people are safe and that they feel safe, and we're going to take appropriate action," said Mayor Kirk Watson of Austin.

The second phase will be completed in June and will include hard-wired lighting, cameras, stronger fencing, and safety beacon installation.