City Council approves plan for Moody College skybridge over Dean Keeton Street

Jackie Wang

Students will be able to cross Dean Keeton Street without touching the street pavement starting early 2016. 

The Austin City Council approved the Moody College’s skybridge project, which will go above Dean Keeton Street between the Belo Center for New Media and the CMA, at June 11’s general City Council meeting. Council member Kathie Tovo said the approved bridge ordinance gives UT “air rights,” which the city needed to permit.

“Because they’re going to use the area above the city street, they have to come to an encroachment agreement with the city,” Tovo said.

When the City Council grants permission for projects such as the Dean Keeton skybridge, they extends the permission for the lifetime of the structure, Tovo said.

“I believe it is more or less a permanent agreement,” Tovo said. “There are some provisions built into the ordinance that said, if there is a concern, we can revisit it. But it is a long­term agreement.”

Moody College of Communication already planned for the skybridge while planning the Belo Center for New Media, said Nick Hundley, the college’s director of communications.

“The college identified the need to construct a pedestrian bridge while planning and constructing the Belo Center for New Media,” Hundley said. “It was able to begin plans for construction upon receiving commitment of the $50 million gift from the Moody Foundation.”

Since Moody College buildings sit on both sides of Dean Keeton Street, the college wanted to offer a safer and more convenient way to travel between the two, Hundley said.

The aesthetic statement of the skybridge also was important, Tovo said.

“It seems it was aimed in part to make a stronger visual impression for people coming to that entrance of campus, but it serves a practical purpose,” Tovo said. “There are a lot of students going back and forth, and it seems a lot of students walk on that route. Getting students on thebridge would improve access for cars, other students [and] relieve a lot of pedestrian congestion.”

Although Tovo said she approves of the skybridge on campus, she hopes it will not become a trend in the city.

“We don’t encourage them downtown because it takes pedestrians off the street, which is vital to a bustling city,” Tovo said. “They really told me that … that part of campus has a lot of pedestrian activity and would be safer to have less and more walking on the bridge.”

The University aims to have the bridge finished by early 2016.