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Brack planning team unveils traffic and grad housing plans

Thursday, May 21, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham

On Wednesday the Cooper Robertson & Partners master planning team presented the latest update on their plans for the University of Texas’ Brackenridge Tract, the 346-acre chunk of land on Lady Bird Lake deeded to the university by Col. Brackenridge.


The update included plans for handling traffic flow at the intersection of MoPac and Lake Austin Blvd. and relocating graduate student housing to a redeveloped site at the current Gateway Apartments.


The proposal calls for two additional ramps to alleviate congestion when drivers heading out of downtown attempt to turn south on MoPac from Lake Travis, and to provide easier access for drivers heading East on Lake Austin that want to go north on the highway. The new plan guides cars under the train tracks and onto 6th Street, where a new intersection would allow entry onto MoPac.


“Today you have to go all the way down and come back around near El Arroyo. A lot of people don’t want to do that because of the signals and traffic, so they end up cutting through the neighborhood,” Mike Weaver of Prime Strategies told In Fact Daily. The southbound turning lane will extend the current underpass below MoPac onto what is now a ramp to Cesar Chavez before vehicles approach the red light.


The plan also will envision building an 825-unit complex to replace the three current graduate housing facilities. The Gateway apartments currently have 200 units, the Brackenridge has 315 units, and the Colorado has 200. Paul Milana of CRP pointed out the steep topography at the Gateway apartments, bounded by 6th Street to the south and 10th Street to the north. He said the team used Italian hill towns as a model for the new complex and said that parking would not be the centerpiece of the apartments, but rather tucked below grade and/or hidden from sight as much as possible.


The plan does not yet include a way to pay for the changes. Milana did elaborate a bit on how “sound planning principles” could contribute to an economically feasible plan that would support the educational mission of the university. He highlighted the Pearl District in Portland as a case study.  Milana said that the current economic situation and the City of Austin’s comprehensive plan did not factor much into the conceptual plan, since it follows a long-term timeline.


The Board of Regents will host an open meeting June 18 when CRP presents the final two conceptual plans.

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