It just got a whole lot easier to commute by bike from southwest Austin to downtown.
The bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Loop 360 and Barton Creek opened this week, and I took an 8-mile detour just so I roll along the new, ultra smooth stretch of concrete.
The verdict? Fantastic.
I pedaled from Barton Springs west to the access road of MoPac, then rode the sidewalk south all the way to the new path, which crosses Loop 360 with two short spans, then leaps over the Barton Creek gorge with a 1,100-foot bridge.
A lane line divides the northbound from southbound traffic on the path, which curves and climbs and swoops and rolls for more than a mile. It towers 70 feet above Barton Creek at one spot.
Itís been a long wait. Construction on the 14-foot wide path, first suggested in 2005, began in early 2014. Crews encountered problems along the way, including deeper bedrock than expected. They had to redesign footings.
Last July, Statesman reporter Ben Wear reported that the bridges would open in stages by the end of the year. That didnít happen, but todayís cruise triggered a smile that wrapped all the way across my face.
Proponents of the $14.1 million project say the route will encourage people who wouldnít brave the access roads of MoPac on their bicycles to pedal into the city center. The trail provides easy access to Barton Springs, Zilker Park, the Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird lake and more. Itís now possible to bike, off street, from U.S. 290 all the way to the river.
The city of Austin and Texas Department of Transportation split the cost of the project.