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Local lawyer presents plan for Barton Springs bypass gate

Friday, June 21, 2019 by Jessi Devenyns

Ever since a woman drowned while tubing in Barton Creek on Memorial Day 2016, Joe Riddell, an environmental attorney and avid inner tuber, has been working on a new design for the bypass tunnel grate where she was trapped. Armed with a cardboard diorama and an action figure, Riddell presented his plan to redesign the grate to make it easier for a swimmer or inner tuber to grab and climb to safety. The current grate was replaced in 2013 from the original 1975 design that was fondly termed the “trash rack.” Riddell, who sat on the city’s Environmental Board when the original grate was installed in the 1970s, acknowledged that there were issues with the first design, too, but one important difference was the angle of the bars, which were at a significantly lower pitch than those of the new grate. Neither design, however, is a solution. “I think some thinking out of the box is important here,” Riddell said. “It’s a tricky situation.” To help generate ideas, he suggested offering the project to some university engineering students as a term project. Chair Linda Guerrero, who served on the Barton Springs Master Plan task force, said that when the new grate was designed, “it was extremely controversial.” The Environmental Commission agreed that the safety of the Barton Springs bypass culvert merited some investigation and unanimously passed a motion to recommend that City Council investigate its safety concerns.

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