How Barton Skyway wound up not connecting over the greenbelt is something that mystifies many commuters in Austin. Why Barton Skyway is so wide and suddenly stops in parkland is a mystery that Statesman.com solves for those of us who weren’t in Austin 34 years ago.
If you use Barton Springs to commute to or from Mopac, you probably are well aware of the fact that Eastbound traffic can back up all the way to at least Robert E. Lee Road or even all the way through Zilker Park to the Mopac Access Road in really bad rush hours. That’s because inhabitants of Barton Hills and Zilker all have to use either South Lamar or Barton Springs to get to and from Loop One. But it didn’t have to be that way.
In the 1970’s, plans were made and authorized that built a bridge over Barton Creek connecting the two halves of Barton Skyway. The city would have also connected some unconnected portions of Lightsey Road which would then allow a continuous east-west road across South Austin. AISD, counting on construction of the bridge, even changed the school boundary lines so that kids from Barton Hills and Zilker neighborhoods would go to O. Henry Middle School and Austin High north of the river.
The building of the bridge was a contentious issue, as much change is in Austin, and when City Council reviewed the plan for the bridge in 1978, the room was packed with anti-bridge residents of nearby neighborhoods arguing about traffic concerns for their neighborhood. In the end, as we all know, the bridge was never constructed, the land around Barton Creek became dedicated parkland, and Barton Springs road became the prettiest parking lot in town on weekday afternoons.