A Useless Road in Austin
Double File Trail is a 1,000-foot road in the north end of Austin, Texas, and it may be one of the most useless stretches of pavement in the state’s capital. This two-lane road forms junctions with Wells Branch Parkway in the south and with Single Trace to the northeast. A wide, tree-lined median divides the lanes of traffic along most of the road’s length, except where two lanes become three at the junctions.
Double File Trail hugs 2800 Wells Branch Parkway, a vacant 83,000-square-foot office building with a large, wraparound parking lot that’s an ideal spot for student drivers or field hockey practice due to its wide open pavement and lack of vehicles. Double File Trail serves no other commercial, industrial or residential structures. It does not provide a viable shortcut for traffic between Single Trace and Wells Branch, and it does not practically relieve congestion in the area, which is already nonexistent. It is a useless slab of infrastructure taking up space in a medium-density residential area in desperate need of public parks and spaces.
Even if 2800 Wells Branch Parkway was a bustling office building with hundreds of cars entering and exiting the property daily, Double File Trail would offer little to the commuters. The northbound road may provide slightly easier entry to drivers coming west on Wells Branch Parkway, but access points along Single Trace and Wells Branch provide plenty of access for drivers coming from every other direction. The southbound lane is totally useless for anyone trying to access 2800 Wells Branch and offers a meager one or two-second shortcut for those passing by.
It’s difficult to discern the reason for constructing Double File Trail in the first place, but it’s clear now that this useless road is a blight on the community. Not only does the infrastructure look ugly and prevent more public green space, but it also costs the community a lot of money in upkeep. Winter storms in 2021, 2022 and 2023 caused significant damage to the road surface, resulting in extensive repairs that likely cost the city tens of thousands of dollars. Despite these problems, the community is unlikely to be aware or concerned. The road doesn’t have much effect on residential traffic and can mostly be ignored.
Despite the unobtrusive nature of Double Fine Trail, there is value in razing the asphalt and pavement and replacing it with natural space or a public park. The area could contain basketball and tennis courts, a dog park, a public playground, community facilities or other concepts brought forward by the public. Some kind of complement or extension to the public gardens across the street would also be beneficial. Families from the adjacent elementary school could find the space very appealing.
The first step in this process is to inform Wells Branch MUD and the City of Austin as well as the public at large. Potential excitement for the project is expected to be subdued at best, as the impact on daily quality of life may be perceived as limited. That’s why awareness efforts should be targeted at nearby apartment complexes, businesses and the elementary school. The owner of 2800 Wells Branch could be a very powerful ally, as beautifying the nearby space could attract lucrative tenants.