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Council approves Waller Creek, I-35 resolutions

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At Thursday's Austin City Council meeting, council members approved a contract for up to $566,500 for shower facilities at two city buildings.

The city was given a federal grant to help implement the Bike Master Plan adopted in 2009. The showers will be installed at the Parks and Recreation Department building and at the Waller Creek Center and for city employee use only. The funds for those showers will come from that grant and from past bond money.

Nadia Barrera, a project manager with the City of Austin Public Works Department explained why the showers are estimated to cost so much.

"Part of it is for design the design of the showers, permitting," Barrera said. "We have to meet all ADA requirements, all the things required to retrofit. One of them is a standing facility so it needs all its own plumbing."

Also during the meeting, city leaders approved the design plans for the Waller Creek redevelopment project. Plans include a chain of parks that would be connected by bridges and hike and bike trails.

There's also a plan for a pontoon bridge to be built over Lady Bird Lake. In addition to the plans, council members approved a development agreement with the Waller Creek Conservancy, the non-profit formed to help operate and raise money for the project.

"This is a watershed event in our city," Mayor Lee Leffingwell said. "To me, it is a model of how we're going to fund our park system to make it better, to better fund it, to better maintain it, using the conservancy model that has begun to gain momentum across the country."

The chair of the Mexican American Cultural Center advisory board believes the City is moving too quickly with the plans after board members just found out about them earlier this month.

"That was the first I've seen it. We've not had any input on the design at all. Nobody at our board meeting our in the community had seen the design either," said Juan Oyervides.

He has some questions about the plans for the pontoon bridge.

"I was really surprised to see the pontoon bridge be tracked directly in front of MACC. So I had asked the director what impact there would be on the MACC."

He's hoping to find out more about the plans in the future.

Also approved was a resolution to further explore what's being called the "cut & cap" plan for I35. Currently, TxDOT is looking at ways to relieve traffic on I35 between MLK and Lady Bird Lake. Plans being considered include fully elevating the highway, sinking the highway or taking no action.

However, council members are asking TxDOT to consider the proposed "cut & cap" plan which has been estimated to cost at least $500 million. The plan would sink eight lanes of I35 and put a continuous cap over them, connecting East Austin to downtown.

"Since I35 has come through Austin it has split Austin and this would be a way to reconnect Austin, East and West, with potential boulevards, a park, and make it more amenable to a community," said Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Cole. The resolution calls for a cost study and economic impact analysis of this plan.

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