Council Approves Construction Contract for Hardberger Park Land Bridge

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The Phil Hardberger Park land bridge will be 150-feet wide.

Courtesy / Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy

The Phil Hardberger Park land bridge, illustrated here in a rendering, will be 150 feet wide.

Work will begin in November on a land bridge connecting the divided Phil Hardberger Park after City Council approved a funding package and construction contract.

At their Thursday meeting, council members approved three measures related to the $23 million concrete bridge to be built over Wurzbach Parkway, which cuts through the 330-acre park.

The 189-foot-long, 150-foot-wide concrete span will be topped with native plants, trees, and an wheelchair-accessible trail that will let people and animals move safely between the two sides of the park.

“People will recognize this,” City Transportation and Capital Improvements Director Mike Frisbie said before the vote. “It’s iconic and unique.”

Frisbie also said the bridge will include underside lighting and a cistern that can catch rainwater for use in irrigating the landscape.

The project’s budget and its location on San Antonio’s relatively more affluent Northside have drawn criticism from some on council and members of the public, who point to other neighborhoods that historically suffered from a lack of public investment.

“It’s going to look great … but at the end of the day, we have other priority needs in our community,” said Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6), who voted against the measures.

All other councilmembers voted yes except for Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3), who abstained, and Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8), who was absent.

The Council also approved a donation agreement with the Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy, led by former Mayor Phil Hardberger.

The donation package adds up to $10 million – $4,205,000 in private donations, $2,795,000 from the conservancy, $2 million from a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department grant, and $1 million from Bexar County.

The remaining $13 million for the bridge was approved by voters as part of the $850 million 2017 bond. Approximately $5.5 million comes from the streets portion of bond revenues and $7.5 million from the parks share.

“Perhaps this was the most controversial bond project that went out in 2017,” said Councilman John Courage (D9). “While some of us may have not been personally supportive of the project – I was – our job now is to make sure the project is built on time, within budget.”

Brockhouse noted that voters could only give an up-or-down vote on more than 170 bond projects and could not have rejected the land bridge without rejecting the rest.
“They were considered worthy as a grouping, not as individual projects,” he said.

The Council also gave its approval to a $18,265,000 contract with SpawGlass Civil Construction to build the land bridge. Another $182,325 from the City’s tree canopy fund will pay the planting of more trees than is required by City ordinance, Parks and Recreation Director Xavier Urrutia said.

Frisbie said that the remaining roughly $5 million of the total $23 million budget is for design, engineering, inspection, and testing of materials.

Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4) acknowledged the land bridge’s cost but said its benefits as a San Antonio landmark and destination park will be immeasurable.

“What I can’t quantify is the value this is going to have for several generations,” Saldana said. “In 2020, there’s going to be a lot of community members who are happy that this is in their city.”

Hardberger, who served as mayor from 2005 to 2009, spoke after the vote about San Antonio’s lack of park space compared to other major cities and the uneven distribution of the city’s parks.

He described how parks often come to be in San Antonio: When a landowner plans to sell a large piece of relatively untouched property for development, the City and conservation-minded groups often scramble to purchase and preserve the land as open space.

“You do have to start somewhere,” Hardberger said. “Somewhere in this case occasioned itself when a big piece of land that had a lot of uncut trees on it came on the market.”

Purchase of the land was itself part of the City’s 2007 voter-approved bond package. Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the land bridge was part of the park’s original concept being discussed a decade ago.

City officials will hold a groundbreaking ceremony open to the public on Oct. 6, with construction set to begin in November. The land bridge should be finished by April 2020.

3 thoughts on “Council Approves Construction Contract for Hardberger Park Land Bridge

    • I would have to think the impact will be minimal as the bottle neck that causes the traffic is the intersection at NW Military. My two traffic related questions would are:
      – What is the provision for future expansion of Wurzbach Parkway under the new land bridge?
      – Wurzbach road is 4 Lane’s plus center turning lane from NW Military through and past the Medical Center. Considering the rapid ongoing growth along this corridor, what is the city planning for the future bottle necks at Lockhill Selma, Vance Jackson, IH10, Fredicksburg, and Babcock?

  1. Expansion of the Howard Peak Greenway Trail System, and the River Walk Trails, may get valuable cost-justification ideas from the 75-mile Pinellas Trail Loop. A recent 16-page report on the 75-mile Pinellas Trail Loop states as follows:

    “Completing the Loop involves completing the nearly 75-mile Pinellas Trail Loop that serves as both a linear park and multi-modal transportation facility in the midst of Florida’s most densely populated county.”

    San Antonio’s 200 miles of trails will soon make a large loop. Multiple loops may be cost-justified in the near future. Click on above for an evolving digital map of San Antonio nature trails.

    The 16-page report on the 75-mile Pinellas Trail Loop is available by Goggling “Pinellas Trail Loop” or going to the following link:

    Part of the 16-page report on the 75-mile Pinellas Trail Loop is as follow:

    Pinellas County 2010 population of 916,542 permanent residents makes it the fifth most populous county in Florida, and 41st in the nation, while also exceeding the total population of five states, and the District of Columbia.
    As the most densely populated county in Florida, Pinellas County has an estimated 3,270 persons per square mile. The second most densely populated county (Broward) has only 1,445 persons per square mile, a testament to the level of urbanization in Pinellas. Within this dense, urban environment, an extensive trail system has been developed, centered on the Pinellas Trail Loop.

    The first segment of the Pinellas Trail Loop opened in 1990 and is one of Florida’s premier urban trails. The Pinellas Trail Loop includes a number of different trails.

    By completing the Loop, an uninterrupted ‘super-highway’ for non-motorized modes will be completed, providing a safe and convenient facility for commuters, students, retirees, shoppers, tourists, seasonal visitors, and those seeking recreational opportunities. Completing the Loop will reduce roadway congestion and greenhouse gas emissions and provide the opportunity for healthier lifestyles.

    Completing the Loop is a high priority of the Pinellas MPO and its jurisdictional partners.

    The primary goal of completing the Loop is to leverage decades of investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure while utilizing existing infrastructure, such as existing right-of-way on existing streets and the Progress Energy utility corridor. This project would serve to reduce the vehicle miles traveled in the county and help to maintain a state of good repair on surrounding transportation facilities. Completing the Loop will also serve to improve the resiliency of Pinellas County by enhancing the facilities available for alternative modes of transportation. Resilient communities are those that have multiple pathways for the movement of people and goods.

    Competing the Loop will place more than half of the residents of the county within one mile of an uninterrupted 75-mile non-motorized transportation facility, accessible when people do not have vehicles available to them, whether due to economic or emergency situations. This non-motorized super-highway provides a low-cost transportation facility that will improve the mobility of residents and enhance resiliency by being available for alternative modes of transportation.

    Completing the Loop will increase the economic competitiveness of Pinellas County, bolstering the county’s long-term economic success and providing a short-term economic boost. The Pinellas Trail Loop integrates existing transportation infrastructure and provides access to a variety of destinations, including commercial centers that provide jobs and goods for local residents, a major PSTA transit transfer facility, a large environmental preserve, a regional park facility, and regional trail facilities.

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