Council OKs extension of Pressler Street through Lamar Beach
Monday, March 3, 2014 by Kara Nuzback
Despite safety concerns expressed by neighborhood residents, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution Thursday to extend Pressler Street by 980 feet, through Lamar Beach parkland. The proposed extension would create a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly alternative route from the Old West Austin Neighborhood to West Cesar Chavez Street.
During a public hearing before the vote, Wayne Brumley, president of the West Austin Youth Association, said he worries the project would create a dangerous situation for the children who frequent the area.
Brumley said he knew about plans for the extension, but he did not know the proposal was coming to Council for a vote until a week earlier.
He said the association has a 25-year lease on the property near the extension, and a more significant planning effort is needed for the project. “A master plan would be preferred,” he said.
Brumley said the extension would cross into a WAYA T-ball field used by children as young as six. “It would definitely hamper that age group,” he said.
Gary Shotz, assistant director of Austin’s Transportation Department, said the department would like to design the extension based on a master plan. “We just don’t have that,” he said.
Shotz said the city aims to complete a design for the extension project and award a bid by the end of 2014. Delaying the project to create a master plan would put the Pressler Street extension behind schedule, he said.
As of last week’s Council meeting, Shotz said, the city is still in the early stages of designing the project. “We’re at 30 percent design at best,” he said.
Cora Wright, assistant director of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, said a private developer is willing to help fund a master plan. She did not name the developer.
“As soon as we receive funding, we will be ready to get started,” she said. Wright said she would speak with the developer and come to Council in the next two or three weeks with a timeline for a master plan.
Council Member Mike Martinez said the city could foot the bill to begin the master plan and arrange for reimbursement from the developer. Martinez said fast-tracking a master plan would give WAYA a seat at the table in determining the future of Lamar Beach.
Council Member Kathie Tovo said she received a number of emails from residents associated with WAYA requesting postponement of the vote to extend Pressler Street.
Martinez said there would be another opportunity for public input on the project before Council awards a bid for construction.
Paul Seals, chairman of the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association, spoke in favor of the extension. “This is something that the neighborhood has been interested in as long as I can remember, trying to add connectivity from the middle part of the neighborhood down to the lake, down to the parkland, down to Lady Bird Lake,” he said. “And this would provide a safe means for cyclists and for pedestrians to get to the lake.”
Council Member Laura Morrison said Council passed a resolution about four years ago to create a master plan for the Old West Austin Neighborhood. “Whatever we can do to get it going, I’ll certainly support that,” she said.
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