West Campus construction on Rio Grande continues into school year

Sarah Philips

Road construction in West Campus is a common sight for students who traverse Rio Grande Street, a road lined with off-campus condos and Greek system houses.

The construction, occurring between 24th and 29th streets, has been an ongoing project since February and is a part of an initiative to improve the functionality and aesthetic of the largely residential street. 

Austin voters approved an allocation of $103.1 million supplied by bonds and notes in 2006 to improve Austin streets. Rio Grande Street was one of the targeted roadways.

Courtney Black, a public information specialist handling the Public Works project, said the construction will include new storm drains, a waterline, bigger sidewalks and a two-way bicycle track, improvements similar to what has already been done on the rest of Rio Grande Street.

“This is gonna help improve the infrastructure, make the street look better and make it more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly,” Black said.

The addition will also provide bike racks, benches, trees, trash bins and improved lighting, Black said. 

Judy Paulk, Alpha Epsilon Phi house mother of 22 years, said having the construction in front of the sorority house she manages has been horrible. 

“The city has been as helpful as they could be, but the problem is I don’t know the purpose of it,” Paulk said. “The worst thing is they’re making it one lane, one-way and now traffic is backed up from 29th to MLK.”

Paulk says she believes the traffic will stay backed up since it will be one-way. To further exacerbate the problem, the Alpha Epsilon Phi chapter is also doing repairs and adding on to their building, which means the members cannot park near the house.

But after all of that, Paulk says the worst part was having to tear down the trees. 

“The city could make better decisions, but they don’t,” Paulk said. “None of it would have bothered me if they hadn’t torn down the trees.”

Mattie Deal, business freshman and recent Alpha Chi Omega bid, said the construction made rush week and navigating the sorority houses a challenge. 

“The construction has definitely made navigating the street more difficult; we had to take different paths to get to the sorority houses most times,” Deal said.

Deal said she also sees how the new sidewalks and lighting will make the street better for the residents.

“We have some meetings that go on as it starts getting dark, and I think that the improvements will definitely help to make the girls feel more safe walking around campus whether it’s at night or during the day,” Deal said.

The construction project which began in February is slated to finish during the summer of 2017.

Black said the rain in the last few weeks has slowed down the project some, but it’s difficult to estimate what effect it had on the construction.

The street is flagged with detour signs which tell traffic and pedestrians to cross to the other side of the street to avoid the construction area. Paulk said even though the street is sometimes worked on seven days a week, she has not had residents complain about noise
or disturbances.