Waller Creek

Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Dazzling light installations will illuminate walkways along Waller Creek on Thursday in an effort to remind the public of a creek they may have forgotten. 

In an effort to spread awareness about the city’s plans to develop five parks along the creek, the Waller Creek Conservancy will be holding a free light show Thursday night. 

There will be a total of five installations, all focused on the concept of illuminating the creek to the public and revealing its potential beauty. Installations can be seen starting at sunset and will range from a floating light bridge to facts about the creek presented directly on walls with phosphorescent paint. The Austin-based architects responsible for the installations will be present to discuss their work. 

The Waller Creek Conservancy’s district runs from Lady Bird Lake to 15th Street. They are partnered with the city and hope to make the Creek Show an annual event.

The conservancy has reached out to businesses that run along the creek. Easy Tiger will host a Happy Hour, and Empire Control Room is planning a show with local bands.

Meredith Bossin, graduate student and director of operations and management for the conservancy, said Waller Creek is often overlooked and underappreciated. The conservancy hopes to unveil its potential to be a vibrant public space. 

“It’s kind of this abandoned, underutilized area,” Bossin said. “The idea with Creek Show is that it will really be experiencing Waller Creek in a way that has never been done before.” 

Bossin said that sections of the creek that are normally inaccessible to the public will be open in order to travel the full length of the installations without having to go up to the street level. 

“We are building this project to be an amenity for all of Austin; we want to make sure that people know that we are doing this and that there will be advocates for us as we are in the process of implementation,” Bossin said. 

Bossin explained the development of the parks could take years, but it is important to gain momentum in the public. 

Architecture lecturer Murray Legge is one of the architects contributing at the light show. His project focuses on using electro-luminescent wire to create a hanging light bridge. 

“With public art, you try and create work that has different levels of meaning,” Legge said. “We like it to be really sophisticated and intellectually challenging and engaging, but, at the same time, it has to have a clarity and a simplicity to it.” 

Legge explained that the transformative power of design will help people imagine the potential of the creek. He said the ephemeral effects of the lights are meant to help people understand how the creek could be an interesting public space.  

Jason Sowell, associate professor for architecture, has been doing research on the creek to find material for his statistic-based painting. Using phosphorescent paint to write on the walls surrounding the creek, Sowell said he thought a lot about ambient light and how the public will be interacting with his piece. 

“The interaction of the public with the work in terms of the shadows that they cast on the graphics will allow for different levels of illumination to occur,” Sowell said. “It’s a subtle project that hopefully, in the end, communicates some significant changes that the infrastructure has imparted.” 

Legge said Austin has a lot of raw, green spaces that have great potential, and developing them could raise the quality of life in Austin. Legge said forward-thinking projects, such as the Waller Creek Light Show, help citizens embrace growth and have the potential to make Austin a more cosmopolitan city.

Waller Creek has been home to botched water snakes for years. University Herpetologist Travis LaDuc says, however, that ongoing construction along the creek is destroying the snakes’ habitat and could cause them to disappear over time.

Photo Credit: Jarrid Denman | Daily Texan Staff

For Travis LaDuc, UT’s assistant curator of herpetology, wading through Waller Creek to grab snakes is part of what he calls “snake CSI.”

LaDuc, assistant curator at the Texas Natural Science Center, tracks and studies blotched water snakes, a species of nonvenomous water snake that lives throughout Texas. LaDuc said the snakes could potentially be harmed by the construction of a tunnel under Waller Creek if it physically divides the population.

Every six weeks, LaDuc and several students go out to the creek to capture the snakes and collect data on their habits and habitat preferences. He uses both microchips and radio technology, which he inserts into the snakes under anesthesia in order to track them.

“It’s a serendipitous sport,” LaDuc said. “You see a snake, reach in to grab it and hope you come up with one. The radio telemetry lets us track snakes 24/7, so we get an overall snapshot of the creek and how they use their habitat.”

Biology junior Andrew Coulter, who went out to track and study the snakes in his vertebrate natural history class, said working with snakes allowed him to learn more about their behavior and misconceptions people have about snakes. 

“I feel like a lot of people think they’re aggressive and want to bite you, but they’re actually pretty calm,” Coulter said.

LaDuc said he chose to study the snakes in Waller Creek because the population was large and easy to access.

“They’re the largest, most common snake in the area, so not a lot of people study them,” LaDuc said. “I wanted to find out how the population has been able to persist, despite everything that’s been thrown at it.”

Despite living near the University in an urban habitat, the snakes still manage to survive and thrive, according to LaDuc.

”People come out [to Waller Creek] all the time,” LaDuc said. “On game days, you have people tailgating and … disturbing the snakes’ habitat, but they seem to do just fine.”Chad Brock, biology graduate student, said snakes can be hard to find in a habitat.

“The most difficult thing about working with snakes can be, at least initially, finding them,” Brock said. “However, once you’ve found the appropriate habitat, they can actually be quite dense.”

According to LaDuc, there’s about one snake every 30 feet along Waller Creek, although most people don’t realize it. The snakes’ ability to camouflage may contribute to their success, LaDuc said.

“[They] have a mottled greenish-brown camouflage, so sometimes they can be hard to see,” LaDuc said. “People will literally almost step on them because they camouflage so well.” LaDuc said ongoing construction in Waller Creek could also potentially affect the snake population.

“The majority [of the snakes] don’t move great distances, but the tunnel could cut off any connectivity with Lady Bird Lake, so that could create a bottleneck where the population becomes genetically isolated over time,” LaDuc said

LaDuc said he gets bitten by a snake at least once every trip, but that doesn’t stop him from continuing his research.

“It’s not my favorite part, but snakes have teeth, and I would probably bite me too, if I were a snake, and some guy came and picked me up out of the creek,” LaDuc said. “Just having something hands-on, something you can wrangle with and get bitten by a few times, is what has always attracted me to snakes. They’re pretty amazing creatures."

In this week's podcast, Jacob Kerr, Amanda Voeller and guests Alyssa Mahoney and Nicole Cobler discuss the results of Texas primary elections for governor and lieutenant governor. They also talk about Alyssa's in-depth story on the history and future of Waller Creek.

The bridge by San Jacinto dorm is a example of the 2013 master plan’s hope to feature Waller Creek more around the university and downtown. Many renovations, such as new bike trails and a possibly rail line, will take place in the next 20-30 years.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Just as surveyor and Austin mayor Edwin Waller considered Waller Creek a beautiful resource in his original 1838 plan for the city, recent University and city master plans are beginning to feature the creek more prominently as an important ecological asset, resulting in drastic changes both on campus and in downtown Austin.

While Waller Creek has always figured prominently in UT’s history, only in recent decades did the University begin to embrace the creek’s ecological value. The University’s 2013 Campus Master Plan, which outlines goals for how campus will develop in the next 30 years, set in motion the construction of the Dell Medical School and launched a plan to make the creek a more centralized feature of campus. Meanwhile, construction projects downtown will redirect the southernmost part of the creek in order to increase area safety and foster economic growth.

Architecture professor Larry Speck, who helped develop the master plan, said the geographical and psychological center of the University has moved east over the past 25 years, as UT has constructed new buildings on the east side of campus.

Speck said the new center of campus may begin to shift away from the Student Activities Center and Liberal Arts Building and toward San Jacinto Boulevard, where Waller Creek runs and where the city may develop a rail line. The University is also working with the city on plans to create a continuous hike-and-bike trail that connects Lady Bird Lake to the city and campus, perhaps as far north as Dean Keeton Street. 

“The center of gravity is definitely moving east once again,” Speck said. “The light rail is supposed to go up San Jacinto, and so if you have students coming and going to the campus and getting off at San Jacinto and right there, there’s a beautiful creek, oasis, green space and a place to hang out and recreation there. Then that really becomes a kind of center to campus, say, 20 or 30 years from now.”

Speck said the University has not always viewed the creek as an asset or incorporated the creek into architectural designs. In the 1950s and 1960s, the University neglected the creek’s ecosystem, at times constructing buildings with loading docks directly on the creekside.

“If you go back and look at the master plan and how they were planning it, the car is freaking God,” Speck said. “I mean, it’s all about as many parking spaces as close to the buildings as possible. Honestly, it was nasty.”

The University has moved away from being the car-obsessed campus it was in the 1950s, Speck said.

“The whole east side over there was just full of parking lots, and that’s what people thought was important,” Speck said. “At a certain point people said, you know, ‘that doesn’t make much of a campus, there’s no sense of community here.’”

According to Speck, the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center, or the Texas Exes building, was one of the few buildings constructed during the 1960s that incorporated the creek into its design, displaying it in the window of the ballroom. Speck said the building demonstrated the creek’s potential as an ecological asset.

“You know, it’s just phenomenal just how quickly cultural attitudes change,” Speck said. “You could see [the creek] not as an edge but as a green space that is a positive, you know, pleasant place to be in the middle of campus.”

With the development of the 1996 Campus Master Plan, University administrators decided to improve mobility for pedestrians and bikers and orient buildings toward the creek, Speck said.

The Dell Medical School, which will accept its first class in 2016, will have all its buildings oriented toward the creek — and as a result, University efforts to improve the creek will target this area first.

“[When] you walk into the front door of the teaching hospital, you [will] look through a big, glassy lobby,” Speck said. “You will look right out into the creek, front and center.”

Speck said he thinks the University’s improvements to the creek may be done piece-by-piece, as new buildings are constructed and existing buildings are renovated.

“I think that human beings and ecosystems can be compatible if they’re designed properly,” Speck said. “It’s just dumbass stupid to leave it like a ditch.”

Farther south along the creek, city planners are constructing the Waller Creek Tunnel, which will reclaim 28 acres, or 11 percent, of the downtown floodplain in order to allow for area redevelopment. Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, who is leading the project, said she would often visit Waller Creek to reflect when she was a UT student and could not pass up the opportunity to spearhead the project.

“It’s just my passion,” Cole said. “I was captivated by it. I love being down there, and once I had it as a project, it is hard to resist thinking about it — what could be here, what could go there.”

Cole said the development will include adding housing and shops, will improve the water quality in Waller Creek and prevent future erosion. The project is scheduled to be completed in fall 2014 at a total cost of $146.5 million.

The Waller Creek Conservancy is responsible for surface-level improvements in the area. After hosting a design competition in 2011 and securing initial funding in a 2012 bond election, the conservancy began work on a park in early 2013. Executive Director Stephanie McDonald said as the conservancy implements the park design, securing additional funding from public and private sources will remain a challenge. 

In addition to cleaning up the creek and adding amenities, McDonald said a major challenge is changing people’s perceptions of the creek so they realize investing in it is a worthwhile endeavor.

“I think that [for] most people, if they even know where it is, [the creek is] largely ignored, or they don’t see it as an asset,” McDonald said. “People see it as an area where only unsafe things happen.”

Cole said she thinks the Waller Creek Tunnel Project and subsequent projects, such as the conservancy’s, will improve connectivity between different parts of Austin.

“As the area is revitalized and you have more people, including housing and students and pedestrians, it’s not so isolated … the safety issues will just kind of melt away,” Cole said. “Activity brings more livelihood and less interest in criminal events.”

But the creek’s future could be impacted by future development of large offices and apartment complexes that may detract from the historic feel the area offers. Philip Fry, co-author of a book about Waller Creek, said he is concerned private area development will conflict with the conservancy’s design of the park.

“[The park areas are] tied together by the creek, of course, and you can travel from one to the other,” Fry said. “It’ll be different. It’ll try to incorporate the public space with the private commercial development.”

Fry, a longtime Austin resident, said he thinks preserving some of the old bars and buildings downtown is important.

“If you go down to Rainey Street right now, you will see some of the foundation work for fairly large condominiums and hotels,” Fry said. “As you go from Waterloo Park along down you’re gonna have open spaces and then sheer walls of buildings, open spaces, more canyons of tall condominiums, and some of those are already in the works.”

Construction workers work on the city of Austin’s Waller Creek Tunnel Project on Wednesday afternoon. The projects goal is to redirect water flow so some areas of downtown would be at less risk of floods.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

For years, business owners avoided building in some parts of downtown — the chance the area would flood made the decision too economically risky. If the City of Austin’s Waller Creek Tunnel Project is successful, 28 acres of downtown will be reclaimed to allow for area redevelopment.

Waller Creek begins north of the University and runs south through downtown and into Lady Bird Lake. The project’s goal is to redirect water flow away from a 100-year floodplain, a low-lying area near a river which is subject to flooding. 

According to Carolyn Perez, Austin Public Works Department communications manager, the project will allow for economic redevelopment of the area.

“It will provide flood protection and make it possible to revitalize parts of downtown that have been stagnant for years,” Perez said.

Perez said area residents have tried to add improvements such as park benches to the creek area, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

“There is an ever-present fear of floodwater,” Perez said. “If you go down to that part of the creek, you can actually see places where people have tried to make improvements, but they were washed away with the next flood.”

Phillip Fry is co-editor of “Austin’s Waller Creek,” a book about the history and vision of Waller Creek that will be published later this year. Fry said he is concerned that real estate in the area will become so expensive that only high-rises or multiple-use buildings will be able to afford building there.

“I think there will be positive things, but I’m starting to think that there will be many changes that some of the old-timers will regret — like the [elimination of the] music scene from 9th Street down to the river,” Fry said. “Commercial development will really have an impact there unless they preserve [the area].”

Perez said the process of lining the 5,600-foot tunnel with concrete is about 40 percent completed and said the tunnel will be fully operational by the end of 2014. According to Perez, the overall project costs $146.5 million — including land acquisition, engineering and project management — and is funded through the Waller Creek Tax Increment Financing Zone. The flood control tunnel construction, a major component of the project, will cost $106 million.

The Waller Creek Conservancy is implementing a design that will rehabilitate the creek ecology and revitalize area parks. Stephanie McDonald, Waller Creek Conservancy executive director, said the Conservancy will focus on areas between 15th Street and Lady Bird Lake, including the floodplain that the tunnel project is reclaiming. 

“Within walking distance of UT, you’ll have a repurposed Waterloo Park and Symphony Square,” Fry said. “It will be accessible by bike-and-hike and even possibly by rail.”

Portions of Red River Street will close between March and October 2014 for street realignment, which will allow Seton Healthcare Family to build a teaching hospital on an enlarged tract of land, meant to accompany the future Dell Medical Center.

Because the University needs more room than it currently has for the medical district, which is projected to be more than 1 million square feet with the addition of the teaching hospital, the city agreed in August to reroute Red River Street, city spokesperson Clark Patterson said.

The curved portion of Red River Street near 15th Street will be vacated by the city in exchange for University land east of the street, Patterson said. This will extend Red River Street to East 15th Street.

At a UT System Board of Regents meeting in May, architecture professor Lawrence Speck said the realignment would allow for a more practical building structure.

“[Red River Street] creates strangely shaped parcels of land, where the grid [that used to be in place] made for much more sensible parcels,” Speck said.

The road extension, utilities, landscaping and other preparations are projected to cost $16.5 million, according to Dell Medical School preliminary documents.

The medical school, scheduled to begin construction in April 2014, will be built on land that is currently Centennial Park, said Rhonda Weldon, director of communications. Part of this land is also a Frank Erwin Center parking lot and another part is University property east of Waller Creek.

Because the medical school’s construction will take away parking from the Erwin Center, there will be a parking lot in the medical campus area to make up for this,
Weldon said.

The University is leasing the land to Central Health, a governmental entity that maintains health care facilities in Central Texas, which will in turn sublease to Seton, said Florence Mayne, executive director of real estate for the UT System. Because the land is zoned for various uses, including multi-family, general commercial services and general office uses, the UT System is requesting that the city change the zoning to public.

“[The University] just came in and said, rather than have all this various zoning, which also gives you various development standards, we’ll just change it all to [Category P],” Paterson said. “We’ll be under one big umbrella.”

Weldon said the University is working to ensure construction will not affect Waller Creek, which runs through Centennial Park.

“The university plans to improve Waller Creek … sure up banks, manage health of vegetation and water,” Weldon said. “We see Waller Creek as a natural amenity, an asset to continuing the pedestrian experience we already have on campus.”

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole tours the Waller Creek Tunnel with press and members of the projet, set to be completed by fall 2014. 

 

Photo Credit: Helen Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Waller Creek may soon become a more accessible and central part of campus if construction of an underground tunnel is completed on schedule.

Waller Creek begins north of UT’s campus and flows into Lady Bird Lake. The creek spans approximately 20 city blocks, which represents 11 percent of downtown Austin, according to the Waller Creek Conservancy’s website. The conservancy works to redevelop Waller Creek into a natural setting that Austin citizens and visitors can enjoy. 

The entrance to the construction site is located at Fifth Street and Interstate 35. The project will clear the floodplain for redevelopment and prevent erosion so that the area is more visitor friendly. The completion of the project might allow the construction of a rail line along Waller Creek that would potentially make the UT campus more accessible to surrounding communities.

In a guided tour of the Waller Creek tunnel construction site Friday, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole noted the updated project completion date will be some time in fall 2014. Cole has served as an Austin City Council member for more than seven years and said the Waller Creek tunnel is her main project. 

Cole said in 1998, Austin citizens approved $25 million to improve Waller Creek, although she said she thought the funding was insufficient. 

“It wasn’t enough,” Cole said. “However, the $25 million served as the seed money for this $106 million cost of the project.”

Once the project is completed, property values are expected to increase, Cole said. All of the city’s additional revenue generated from that increase in property value will go toward financing the project over a 20-year period.

Phillip L. Fry, author and Austin resident, said he is writing a book about Waller Creek and Austin from its early history to modern times. Fry’s book focuses on future plans for the creek, and all proceeds from the book will benefit the Waller Creek Conservancy and the development of Waller Creek.

“The future of Waller Creek will influence the future of the UT campus,” Fry said. 

Recent master plans indicate that a rail line may run north-south of Waller Creek, which now runs through the east side of campus, according to Fry. 

“The creek will become the center of campus and perhaps replace Guadalupe as the main transportation route for pedestrians, light rail, hike-and-bike and buses,” Fry said.

Gary Jackson, the Waller Creek tunnel project manager for the City of Austin Department of Public Works Department, said there have been no unforeseen obstacles in the completion of the project and no injuries to the construction team. 

“We’ve done a very involved risk management process,” Jackson said. 

Lauren Alexander, development director for the Waller Creek Conservancy, says that the conservancy works closely with the City of Austin on this project. 

The conservancy is also involved in supporting the building team involved in implementing the final design of the park and maintaining its facilities, although fundraising is ongoing. Suzanne Deal Booth, board member of the conservancy, said that there is no budget for art, so after the design is finalized, the board will work to commission for great artists whose works will be integrated into the natural setting and design of the space. Booth estimates this process may take up to two years for the project to be ready for community use. 

“The University of Texas is an integral part of this project because students will be able to more easily ride buses or walk to Lady Bird Lake and enjoy all of the amenities that downtown Austin has to offer,” Cole said.

Biochemistry sophomore Bryan McGee, left, looks for trash in Waller Creek on Saturday morning. The Environmental Health and Safety committee and the Texas Natural Science Center co-sponsored the clean up.

Photo Credit: Julia Bunch | Daily Texan Staff

Drought has caused the trash in Waller Creek to become more visible, but volunteers used the opportunity to fight the garbage this weekend with a creek cleanup day.

Waller Creek is a small piece of nature that runs through campus, and because of its location in an urban setting, many pollutants are present. The Environmental Health and Safety committee and the Texas Natural Science Center co-sponsored the biannual clean up. Carin Peterson, training and outreach coordinator of Environmental Health and Safety, said the creek needed to be cleaned while it was still low enough so volunteers could reach the majority of the trash.

“Every year, we clean twice a year in the spring and fall,” Peterson said. “This fall, we have about 35 volunteers helping clean up the creek. Luckily, the creek is low. If it were higher, it would be harder to pick up the trash.”

Some students chose to volunteer independently while others came as members of an organization to support the cause. Geology junior Alan Czepinski said he easily made the choice to come out and volunteer for creek cleanup.

“What motivated me to come out and clean is when I ride by on my bike every day and look down at the creek, it is always so dirty, and I wanted to help out the UT community,” Czepinski said. “Plus, they make it so easy for you by providing the gloves and buckets. All you have to do is show up.”

Members of organizations such as undeclared freshman Julian Adame said the creek is an important part of campus that needs to be taken care of.

“The creek is a part of the campus too, and it is nice to see good landscaping,” Adame said. “Our pre-med society, [Alpha Epsilon Delta], is doing this, so we decided to come out and support the cause. The craziest thing we found so far is underwear. We found three pairs so far, and they are not in good shape.”

Most volunteers stayed out of the water and used tongs to pick up trash. However, McKenzie Henry, safety coordinator for Environmental Health and Safety, put on rubber boot waders and grabbed the trash settled at the bottom of the creek where other volunteers couldn’t reach.

“There are newspapers and cups down here in the middle of the creek,” Henry said. “I think when it rains, since the ground is mostly rock, a lot of stuff gets washed down here. Also, the storm drains don’t help. Everyone should help keep campus beautiful by volunteering.”

Printed on Monday, November 14, 2011 as: Volunteers benefit from drought, remove trash from campus creek

Hazardous Materials specialist John Oldag and technician April Idlett move salvage drums away from Waller Creek after an emergency drill Tuesday morning. The drill was conducted by several UT departments and outside agencies to insure a successful response to a chemical spill.

Photo Credit: Lauren Gerson | Daily Texan Staff

Police tape, fire trucks and people in hazmat suits lined San Jacinto Boulevard on Tuesday morning.

The University partnered with the Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals to test how responders would react to a chemical spill into Waller Creek on campus.

Members of UT Police Department, Austin Fire Department, University Operations and city and state representatives made up the approximately 25-member team that drilled for a chemical danger.

Under a tent, members of the media and the AHMP were briefed on the progress of the exercise using a play-by-play style of presentation as the drill progressed. AFD Battalion Chief Palmer Buck narrated the progress of two safety workers as they carefully moved fake chemical barrels from the river bed.

“The main goal was that we want to minimize the time spent here and maximize the shielding to protect as many lives as possible,” Buck said.

The exercise was also intended as a demonstration for the public, said UTPD Lt. James Gabriel.

“This creek runs into Lady Bird Lake, and we work with the city, county and state level forces to ensure that a contamination like that couldn’t happen.”

The AHMP has conducted previous preparedness exercises at nuclear reactors and other sites, and has been on campus before when it tested the ability of the University to respond to a theoretical radioactive leak in January 2011. Gabriel said these tests are one of many that the University conducts.

“The University has drills like this somewhere between every six months to a year. We train together with environmental health services, the fire department — we even notify the EPA and then sometimes they become fully engaging,” Gabriel said. “The UT police had eight officers here alone.”

AHMP selected UT as the location for the drill at its last national conference because of some AHMP members’ involvement with UT, said Peter Schneider, safety officer for AHMP at the drill.

University Operations spokeswoman Cindy Posey demonstrated how her department would use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to keep the public updated in the event of a chemical danger, as well as where they would set up the media crews and what messages would be sent out.

“In order to prepare for something like this you just have to go through the motions,” Posey said. “It’s unlike a tabletop exercise where we just sit in a conference room and act like we are dealing with virtual people. Here we’re actually in the field and it gets us really ready for any possible event.” 

Printed on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 as: Public services collaborate for drill.

An underground tunnel project designed to reduce Waller Creek flooding could lead to improved bike paths between UT and downtown and a river walk, said city officials.

The Waller Creek Tunnel Project is a large, mile-long storm tunnel being built 70 feet under the last mile of Waller Creek, stretching from Waterloo Park to Lady Bird Lake. The tunnel project would regulate flood water in the mile stretch of Waller Creek between 12th and Red River streets. The city broke ground on the project on April 8.

When the tunnel project is finished, the city will begin to work to improve pedestrian bike lanes around and between Lady Bird Lake, UT and downtown, said public works department spokeswoman Carolyn Perez.

“What has to happen first is getting the flooding under control,” she said. “After that, improving those lanes is one of the goals that the city has.”

Step one of the plan is building the tunnel itself and step two, which is much farther down the road, is building a river walk downtown, Perez said.

“I think it’s important to differentiate,” she said. “A lot of people think we’re just turning downtown into a river walk, and that’s something that will happen in the future, but we’re not building one right now. And it’s not going to be a carbon copy of the one in San Antonio, it’s going to be very uniquely Austin.”

The plan would primarily affect the area south of 15th Street, but the project would increase connectivity to major destinations on campus, such as the Erwin Center and Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, said architect Jim Robertson, manager of the Urban Design division of the Planning and Development Review Department.

“Our hope is that the campus and major destinations within the campus would become more closely connected and better accessible to and from the Waller Creek improvements at Waterloo Park and South Austin,” he said.

While the tunnel will mostly affect Eastern downtown, it would still positively impact pedestrian and bike travel between downtown and campus along with other areas of the city, Robertson said.
“Our hope is that the benefits will extend beyond just that area,” he said. “The community’s vision is of a true ‘destination’ type experience that would be of benefit to not only the broad Austin community but also an attraction for visitors.”

Many problems currently face bikers riding downtown from UT’s campus, including streetlights that favor motorists and unfriendly drivers, said radio-television-film sophomore Demi Adejuyigbe who frequently bikes downtown.

“I’d love better bike lanes,” he said. “The bike lanes right now aren’t terrible but they could use some renovation and improvement. Better bike lanes would definitely be good to have.”