On May 23, Austin City Council approved the construction contract for a bridge between the Heritage Hills and Windsor Hills neighborhoods, despite the concern of many people residing in that area. The total contract amount cannot exceed $751,673.93.
Councilman Chris Riley said the project has been in the works for a long time, and he is looking forward to the positive effect the bridge would have on foot and bike traffic.
“My hope is that it remains an area of town where people can continue to enjoy their homes, and in particular I hope that people will have even more opportunities in the future to enjoy the neighborhood on foot and on bike,” Riley said. “And that means not just folks on the south side of the creek, but folks on the north side of the creek, who, with the construction of this bridge, will have a very safe and convenient opportunity to come down and enjoy that park, to access the school and really to come all the way down to the central part of Austin.”
Some concerns raised by the public include crime in the area north of the creek and a potential loss of bus service for students going to Hart Elementary School—the bridge would provide a walking route for students—as well as the dimensions of the bridge.
Al Morgan, president of the Heritage Hills–Woodbridge Hills Neighborhood Association, said the North Acres Neighborhood Park is small—2.45 acres—and the bridge would dominate the area, ruining the natural feel the park.
“The unattractive bridge and trail are all that visitors to the creek and park will see,” Morgan said. “I would walk an extra mile to save this park as is.”
About 450 linear feet of 10-foot wide trail is expected to be built along with a 180-foot bridge that would span Little Walnut Creek. The bridge would connect Furness and Park Plaza drives.
According to Austin Police Department officials, crimes, in the area north of the creek, including homicide, robbery, theft and burglary, have increased by less than 1 percent from 2009–11, but streets that would directly connect to the northern portion of the proposed bridge have seen about a 12 percent decrease in those same crimes during that same time period.
Howard Lazarus, director of Austin’s Public Works Department, said he has received a letter from AISD supporting construction of the bridge and said AISD has not yet made a decision on whether to terminate bus service.