Trail Meets Tech: Leveraging Partnerships and Technology on the new 45SW Trail

Trail Meets Tech

The new State Highway 45 Southwest (45SW) Toll is a project nearly 35 years in the making. The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority leveraged community support and extensive stakeholder collaboration to envision and finally build this multimodal connection. The project includes a holistic trail experience that will captivate, educate, and improve users’ quality of life for generations to come. On the border of Hays and Travis county, 45SW connects communities to the south to Austin’s city center. Accompanying the roadway, the 45SW Trail is a continuous 4.5-mile shared use path that provides a multimodal travel option for the community. The 45SW Trail features two trailheads and will connect with the future Violet Crown Trail, an eventual 30-mile regional trail system. While 45SW provides much needed congestion relief, it faced significant opposition due to its location within the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone. Featuring about a dozen illustrative signs to educate users on the region’s history, geography, and inhabitants, the 45SW Trail places special emphasis on the Edwards Aquifer’s vital role in providing clean drinking water. In fall 2019, the Mobility Authority will launch a trail app featuring an audio guide in English and Spanish and interactive augmented reality animations. This session will explain how meaningful stakeholder collaboration and partnerships ultimately created the path forward for 45SW, and how the trail uses innovative storytelling to educate the public on the same issue that almost halted the project – protecting the water entering the aquifer.

Mike HeiligensteinMike Heiligenstein has a long career in the development of infrastructure in Central Texas, and currently leads the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. The Mobility Authority is an independent government enterprise created in 2002 to develop a modern, regional transportation network that became operational in 2003 when Mike was chosen by the Board of Directors to lead the agency.

Mike began his career in Austin/Central Texas region, developing infrastructure in 1980 upon his election to the Round Rock City Council and later chaired the Water Development Committee of the Council as Mayor Pro-Tem. Since then, he has served as County Commissioner for the fast growing Williamson County, and has had an uninterrupted 38-year career of Policy/Executive-level infrastructure development in various types of utilities and transportation. Mike has represented the citizens of the fast-growing Central Texas area by serving as an elected official for 23 years and helping lead efforts to expand water, wastewater and transportation infrastructure. Upon becoming the Executive Director of the Mobility Authority, the agency had no roadways under construction, no revenue and no staff. Now the Mobility Authority has over $2 Billion in assets with 231 lane miles open to traffic and another 155 lane miles under construction, serving over 2 million Central Texans.

Mike is called upon both nationally and in Texas to speak to groups about infrastructure, particularly transportation, and is known for his commitment to seeking solutions to some of our most challenging mobility issues.

Mike is a graduate of the University of Texas and holds Master’s Degrees in both Government and Business Administration.

While an elected official Mike served on the Austin Public Transit Taskforce that led to the creation of the Capital Metropolitan Transit Authority. He also served on the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization for 8 years; vice-chaired the Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council, chaired the Clean Air Force of Texas and helped lead many other community infrastructure initiatives.

Mike was selected by his national peers to be the President of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association and is a member of the Advisory Council of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, as well as several other committees and working groups dealing with transportation issues. He is also currently serving on the Texas Department of Transportation’s Texas Technology Task Force, and the National Federation of Municipal Analysts Committee on Toll Road Recommended Best Practices.

Mike is an avid gardener who personally cultivates the grounds around his home. A dedicated St. Louis Cardinals fan, he makes it to at least one game each year. Mike is also a wine and cheese connoisseur, and enjoys sampling at home and abroad.

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