On Thursday, City of Austin officials approved eminent domain proceedings to reclaim a parking lot between 4th and 5th street that is required to begin the Waller Creek tunnel project.
The half-block property is essential to development of the mammoth downtown tunnel project. According to officials, it is needed for two tunnel easements, one temporary and one permanent. The approval does not initiate proceedings to claim the property, but allows city officials to do so if they can not reach agreement with property owners.
The Waller Creek Tunnel Project is a storm water bypass tunnel beginning with an inlet structure in Waterloo Park and an outlet structure at Lady Bird Lake near Waller Beach and the Four Seasons Hotel. Nearly, a mile long, the tunnel will vary between 22 and 26 feet in diameter. The project is expected to reduce the size of the 100-year floodplain of the lower Waller Creek watershed by an estimated 28 acres and allow denser development and redevelopment in a very desirable area of downtown Austin. A pump station at Waterloo Park will maintain constant water flow in the creek during the dry season, thus improving water quality and fostering a creek side atmosphere suitable for public venues or natural settings. Creek side inlets located between 4th and 5th streets and 8th and 9th streets will capture and divert additional flood waters south of 12th street.
The tunnel project is comprised of several construction projects, including utility relocation, the tunnel, the inlet, outlet, creek side inlets, and site restoration. The Tunnel project will cost approximately $127 million—an initial estimate based on 2006 dollars. Construction will take place from January 2010 until July 2014.
According to the Austin Business Journal, “the lot discussed this week is owned by the Strenger Real Estate Holdings Ltd. and is used for paid parking. City technical resource and professional engineer Stan Evans said the temporary easement is needed for staging construction and the permanent section is needed to restore the creek and install draining infrastructure. He said the city and the property owners are currently in negotiations, but if the two do not reach an agreement by an undisclosed deadline, eminent domain will proceed.”