Former rail line to ABIA in Austin could become latest hike and bike trail

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — An abandoned rail corridor in south Austin could become the next urban hike and bike trail.

The Bergstrom Spur is a former rail line which stretches six miles east/west from South 1st to 183 near Austin Bergstrom International Airport. It was originally built after WWII to to build Bergstrom Air Force Base, now called ABIA.

The Bergstrom Spur rail line hasn’t been used since the 1990’s. It was originally built after WWII. (Courtesy: Alex Caprariello)

The city is considering transforming it into a multi-use, non-motorized pathway for bicyclists, pedestrians, runners, skateboarders and other wheeled users.

“I definitely think this east west connection linking to a lot of businesses in the area will be key to getting people out of cars, get them on bikes or on foot and using this area,” said Katie Wettick, the urban trails program manager for the City of Austin’s Division of Public Works. “This study is looking at this corridor, looking at what the obstacles are and seeing what the opportunities are. From there, we’ll see how to move forward.”

The proposed urban trail would stretch just west of S. 1st street to 183 by ABIA. The project is still being discussed among city leaders and they are asking for the public’s input. (Courtesy: Alex Caprariello)

Neighbors liked the idea of a South Austin trail, but wondered why Austin doesn’t transform the outdated rail line into a modern system to bring travelers to and from ABIA.

“If it’s something that has already been established and has been used before and maintained, why not turn it back into something that has been used in the past,” said Alexis Alexander, who lives by the tracks. “I feel like the main thing that Austin is lacking is more public transportation systems with direct routes.”

Much of the rail line is broken or overgrown with vegetation. (Courtesy: Alex Caprariello)

CapMetro told KXAN the tracks had been considered in long-range transit studies, but predicted ridership would be too low for a project of that nature. A spokesperson also noted that the tracks end at the Union Pacific main line, which is not used for commuter service.

The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and the Austin Public Works Department’s Urban Trails Program invited the public to share their recommendations for the project last week. There is also an online open house where you can fill out your comments and questions on the project.

According to City of Austin Urban Trails Master Plans, there are 300 miles of trails of all types within city limits. Thirty miles of those existing trails are considered Urban Trails because they serve both transportational and recreational purposes.

Tonight on KXAN News at 10 p.m., Alex Caprariello will show you what it takes to convert an abandoned rail line into an up-to-date hike and bike trail.

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