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Public invited to view proposed changes to Waller Creek Tunnel

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Models of the proposed intake and discharge facilities for the Waller Creek Tunnel will be on display at City Hall for the next two weeks as the city staff continues work on the major flood-control project. “We’re hoping the public comes out to look at these and give comments on them,” Joe Pantalion, Assistant Director of Watershed Protection and Development Review told the Council last week.

 

“This is leading up to the ability to enter into a contract for creating the design drawings at the beginning of the year.” Stakeholder groups and a committee have reviewed the concepts exhibited in the models on display as part of a yearlong public input process.

 

The goal is to have the intake and discharge facilities to also include publicly accessible spaces, although the concept for those spaces has been revised in the past several years. For the exit of the tunnel at Lady Bird Lake, the original proposal called for a public amphitheatre and walkways. “What we heard from the public and what the advisory committee finally landed on was the fact that they wanted all of the components of the tunnel to blend in as much as possible with the surroundings at each of these sites,” Pantalion said. The proposal now does not include an amphitheatre, “and that allows us to recreate a much more natural lagoon type of setting that will actually have wetland plantings.”

 

For the tunnel entrance at Waterloo Park, the proposal calls for submerging much of the pumping station and designing one of the buildings at the site to double as a site for special events. “The roof continues to be a park area and venue space …and that is something the park staff and others wanted,” Pantalion said. “This new concept does preserve obviously more event area.” Staffers also plan to include an irrigation system at Waterloo Park to enable the park to hold larger, multiple-day events.

 

As the project moves forward, staffers have been consulting with officials in San Antonio, who are working on a major extension to that city’s Riverwalk. “One of the big takeaway points is that it takes a whole lot of people pulling in the same direction to carry off a project like that,” said Jim Robertson of the Neighborhood Planning and Zoning Department. “Another important lesson is that they, too, have both a mixture of public land and private land alongside the San Antonio River in the areas where they will be carrying out this project,” Robertson said.

 

“As a result, it takes both public effort and private projects to bring to life the vision they’ve created. One of the things they found is that the private sector was a lot more willing to come along with the project…in terms of both investing their private money on their land and thereby carrying out a piece of a vision, but also actually in some cases contributing their own land to the project.”

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