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Medical School construction to bring changes to Red River Street

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 by Michael Kanin

The character of Red River Street as it runs through the new University of Texas Dell Medical School is set to change under current plans for the development of that area.


According to Austin Transportation Director Robert Spillar, “The street will change character as it becomes integrated within that piece of the campus.” Spillar briefed Council members on the matter Tuesday


When prompted by Council Member Chris Riley, Spillar described what he saw as the future of that portion of Red River. “It will still provide a through capacity…but already that piece of Red River is really a local access. As the campus surrounds it…it will feel more like a local street,” Spillar said.


Spillar did add that his department is “very aware that we need to maintain the ability to have the through capacity.” 


Spillar’s statement came as Council Member Bill Spelman raised questions about fee waivers associated with the project. The waivers, roughly $1 million that would otherwise go toward paying for inspections and permitting that will accompany the construction, had brought some concern from Spelman’s office.


On April 12, workers will begin realigning Red River Street for construction of the teaching hospital at the Dell Medical School. The street will be closed from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard  to 15th Street until the end of 2014. Red River is expected to reopen to through traffic in January 2015.


Other road work associated with the Medical School will begin March 30 on 15th Street and April 20 on MLK. These streets will remain open, but traffic delays should be expected.


On Tuesday, both city staff and a University of Texas representative did their best to put the waiver in context. Prompted by Spelman, who asked what the city could expect in return for its investment via the fee waivers, Assistant City Manager Robert Goode cast the waivers in terms of what the city could expect back from the new facility.


“For one, the partnership with the medical school…all the benefits that we’ve discussing as a community (surrounding) the medical school,” offered Goode.


Jackson Walker attorney Tim Taylor represents the University of Texas. He widened the focus of Goode’s statement. “I think there are two parts,” said Taylor. “One is the medical school, but also it is the overall partnership that we have with UT – both UT-Austin (and the) UT system – with Central Health, and with Seton, and with the replacement of Brackenridge. The start of this interlocal agreement and the partnership with the city was specifically related to the building of a new teaching hospital.”


Taylor continued, linking the $1 million in fee waivers to the entire breadth of the medical school district. “What this is going to allow all of us to do – and I say all of us: the city, UT, the community itself – is to replace the safety net hospital,” he said, before turning to the widely-touted potential of additional development around the medical school.


“The second part is the medical district itself, which will create an entire new area of campus,” Taylor said. “There will be medical office buildings, the Dell Medical School itself, the Seton teaching hospital…and then eventually, the medical innovation district…which will develop south of there.”


As the Monitor reported Tuesday, current plans for the medical school would straighten Red River as it runs through the Dell campus.


Council is set to formally approve the fee waivers Thursday.

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