Replacing Redbud Trail Bridge: Austin Public Works working on taller, wider bridge

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — You can take a look at the Redbud Trail Bridge and see it’s in need of a little TLC. Around 16,000 people cross the bridge every day, and for years now, there’s been talk to replace it.

“They never anticipated all these many cars going over this bridge,” Diana Evans, who commutes on the bridge and uses it to get to Redbud Trail Isle said.

The aging Redbud Trail Bridge, officially named Emmett Shelton Bridge — named after the founder of West Lake Hills — sits at the north end of Lady Bird Lake connecting two communities: West Lake Hills and Austin. It was built in 1948 and designed to meet a lifespan of 50 years, but as of today, it’s been in use for 71 years.

MORE: Cities clash over plans to replace old, outdated Redbud Trail bridge

“West Lake was hardly West Lake then,” Evans said reminiscing. “About 50 years ago, my friends built a house in Westlake so we’ve been crossing the “low-water” bridge for that long and there was no traffic.”

Austin Public Works’ Interim Assistant Director Pirouz Moin said, “In 1998, a department consultant conducted a rigorous study and analysis of the structure and identified there wasn’t much life left.”

Moin said the department repaired the bridge in 2000, immediately after receiving the results of the study, to extend the life until they were able to secure funding in later years to come.

A rainy day on the bridge. Oct. 22, 2018 (KXAN Photo: Candy Rodriguez)

Flooding and growing traffic over the years have put a strain on the bridge, according to Austin Public Works officials.

They’ve been working on plans to improve mobility and safety in the area. Public Works officials are looking to build a taller, wider two-lane bridge and add a shared-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians to get across safely.

“I love it because you’re right there on the lake but you do feel close to the cars,” Evans said.

The new design would also raise the “low-water” bridge.

“The new bridge would bring this elevation out of 100-year-flood,” Moin said.

Austin Public Works outlines the proposed construction area in red. Moin said it is 1100 feet, almost a quarter-mile. (Source: Austin Public Works)

The new bridge would be anywhere from 12 to 15 feet taller than the current bridge, but for Evans, the taller bridge would mean giving up what she believes makes the area unique.

“I get that they need to improve the situation, but to me when I turn the corner and see the dam and the lake, it’s very peaceful; if you build a bridge up top you’ll lose a little of that,” Evans said.

At the same time, Evans said she understands the improvements need to be made, “With all the traffic they have to do something,” she added.

She and her husband hoped the changes wouldn’t come anytime soon.

“We’d hope we would be dead before all these changes happened, sadly we’ve lived too long,” she said jokingly.

Currently, the city is in the design phase, once a design is approved and construction begins, Austin Public Works said they will not close the bridge until the new one is complete. People would still have access to Redbud Trail Isle.

Funding the Replacement

Last year, voters approved $50 million dollars in additional funding for the bridge replacement through Proposition G.

BREAKDOWN: Streets, sidewalks and bridges: Prop G asks for $160M in improvements

In 2012, voters approved the transportation and mobility Proposition 12 for a total of $143,299 million, of that $3.3 million was set aside to funding design of the Emmett Shelton Bridge project.

Austin Public Works officials said the complete roadway and bridge design is expected to cost around $5 to $6 million. The preliminary construction cost estimate is approximately $50 million.

Officials don’t expect construction to begin until sometime in 2023 and said construction could last two and a half years.

Community meeting Thursday

On Thursday, Austin Public Works will host a community open house from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the West Austin Youth Association (WAYA) located at 1314 Exposition Blvd. in Austin.

This is technically the city’s second open house, the first was hosted in June 2016 and gathered feedback from the community.

Project Status

TimeframePhasesDescription
2019Bridge designConceptual design of bridge (including aesthetics)
Late 2019/Early 2020Public Meeting #3Provide project update, receive additional feedback
2020 — 2023 Detailed Bridge DesignInvestigations and detailed bridge design
2021 — 2023Clearance and Permitting Environmental clearance and permitting
2023ConstructionConstruction contract letting
2024 — 2025 ConstructionConstruction of a new bridge

Austin Public Works said crews will be conducting some routine maintenance mid-July not associated with the bridge project.

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