A new gateway bridge project into Austin over the Colorado River is starting to move off the drawing board. It involves a major redesign of Hwy183.
Concrete pillars to an abandoned bridge project over the Colorado River are symbolic of grand ideas unfulfilled in east Austin. Greg Garcia and Janie Lara were on a walk along the river bank Wednesday morning and said they have always wondered about the eyesore.
"Yeah, it will be something new to see if they did change it up and fix it," said Garcia.
The wait is almost over. Planners with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority Wednesday morning showed FOX7 redevelopment plans that are now ready for public release.
"We've got to get this thing going," said CTRMA Executive Director Mike Heiligenstein.
There are three initial gateway bridge proposals for what will be called the Bergstrom Expressway. All three are located along the south bluff of the river.
"You know a bridge is not just a bridge; a bridge is there to be seen for the next 50, 60 years," said Heiligenstein.
One idea decorates a standard highway bridge with wall murals. Another involves installing 1,839 multi-colored steel poles. They represent when Austin was chartered ( 1839 ) and the diversity of the city. The third option is building a suspension bridge - the sting of cables symbolizes technology, music and rhythm. It would be illuminated at night.
"You know the Pennybacker Bridge on 360 is an example of an iconic bridge for the region, why can't we do the same similar thing on a different scale here on this facility, 183, it would be beautiful," said Heiligenstein.
Building around giant oak trees in the right of way will be a priority. The old Montopolis Bridge may also be saved which Janie Lara hopes will happen.
"I wouldn't want to lose the bridge, that's like part of the Montopolis area, and eastside basically," said Lara.
Ideas for the steel girder bridge include keeping it part of the expressway, converting it into a pedestrian and bike trail as part of a riverside park or tearing it down.
Redesigning the area along the Colorado River is just one part of a much larger project, a project that's estimated to hit about $600 million. The main sections of the new road will be a tollway. Highway 183 will run along the outer edges and will remain free - although controlled by traffic lights.
Ground breaking could begin by late 2015 with another big project on the horizon.
"If and when we do anything with IH 35, we better have this road done," said Heiligenstein.
That's because the gateway may also have to serve as a construction detour. Construction on the Bergstrom Expressway could be completed by late 2018 or early 2019.
A closer look at the plans and a chance to talk to road planners will be held Thursday night during an open house at the southwest key center.
Bergstrom Expressway Open House
Thursday, Oct 10th
Southwest Key Center – Community Room
6002 Jain Lane. Austin, TX
Oct 10- Nov 10