City Breaks Ground on Waller Creek Tunnel
The City of Austin kicked off construction Friday morning of the Waller Creek Tunnel Project. It will be one of the largest flood control projects ever in Travis County. The tunnel will be about a mile long and run from Waterloo Park to Lady Bird Lake.
“First of all it prevents flooding. In times of heavy rain the tunnel will take the extra water and pump it directly into Lady Bird Lake, but in dry times it also serves the role of taking Lake Bird Lake water and re circulating it up to Waterloo Park and through the creek; basically what it does is it makes Waller Creek a constant level creek year round,” said Mayor Lee Leffingwell.
When it’s all said and done 28 acres of land downtown will have been “removed” from the 100 year flood plain. Once that flood risk is reduced, it will pave the way for new development along the Waller Creek Corridor. Council member Sheryl Cole says: think San Antonio’s River Walk, but with a special Austin twist.
“Sometimes I call it an Austin style River Walk because one thing that has been made clear in a number of public meetings and town hall meetings that we’ve had is that people want to have a creek that maintains as much of the natural environment as possible,” said Cole.
The city has plans for parks and bicycle paths near Waller Creek. Also, new restaurants, shops and housing in the area. The overall tunnel project cost is currently estimated at $144 million. That includes land acquisition, engineering and construction costs.
The project is being paid for with bond money (approved in 1998) and a City of Austin-Travis County Waller Creek Tax Increment Finance District created in 2007. The main tunnel project is expected to be finished by the end of 2014.
Mayor Leffingwell says a private group, called the Waller Creek Conservancy, has been formed to look for philanthropic ways to pay for public amenities in the Waller Creek area.