City of AustinFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Austin Parks & Recreation Department is saddened by the temporary closure of the Zilker Zephyr. The Zephyr is more than a train ride through Zilker Park, it’s part of Austin’s history and a cultural institution. The Department takes the operation of this beloved amenity seriously and is working to secure a contract for future operations.
A rainstorm in May 2019 caused severe erosion to an embankment supporting part of the train’s track. Staff met with the train operator, as well as other City departments, to evaluate the safety of the eroded bank. The track was determined to be unsafe and would have to be evaluated by a licensed engineer and repaired in order to continue operation. This portion of the track was temporarily fenced off while staff worked with the vendor to evaluate options.
As with many park amenities, the long-term operation and success of the Zephyr depends on its infrastructure. When the storm occurred, less than a year was remaining on the vendor’s contract. As with other long-term concessions, the Department planned to re-bid the service to ensure the public receives the best services possible while providing all vendors an opportunity to manage operations. This could include improvements to the facility and/or additional services within a new contract.
Per the contract, the vendor is required to make all repairs; therefore, recouping erosion repairs would have required a period longer than the remaining contract period. In consideration of the additional repair costs, the Department worked in good faith with the vendor on an agreement to continue operations while preserving future bidding opportunities.
Unfortunately, the Department was unable to come to an agreement with the vendor for a new professional services contract. Since that time, the Department has been researching public, train amusement attractions to ensure a competitive bidding process for future operations. PARD will release a Request for Proposals for the management and operation of the train by late spring 2020.
The Department is working as expediently as possible to procure a new vendor, and thanks the previous vendor for their service to Austin.