Waller Creek, which runs through downtown Austin, is currently getting a tunnel to direct away flood waters. That tunnel was promised in the 1970’s in a city plan, Statesman.com reports.
The tunnel began construction in April of 2011 and is right on schedule. It will feature a wide inlet in Waterloo Park that will channel floodwater into a 70-foot shaft, which will then flow into a subway sized-tunnel underneath Sabine Street and into Lady Bird Lake. It’s a massive undertaking expected to cost $146.5 million.
Now the Austin City Council is starting to discuss improvements to the Creek and the trails that surround it to transform it from a trash-filled and overgrown pit into “Austin’s next great attraction.” They’ll ask voters to green light $13 million for Waller Creek in the November bond referendum and the rest of the money will come from other sources. By completion, the city projects refurbishing the creek to cost $60 million.
Those monies will be matched by members of the nonprofit Waller Creek Conservancy, who are currently running an international urban design competition for how the creek will be redesigned for the fifteen blocks between Waterloo Park and Lady Bird Lake.
Critics say that the project only benefits the owners of businesses along the creek, although supporters point out public money will only be spent on city-owned parkland and some related street improvements. Those opposed to the project are also are concerned that it will increase pressure to develop even more of the Rainey Street District and could drive up costs along Red River Street where the music venues already are concerned about high rents.