Aspirations of Speedway construction unraveled at meeting

Meraal Hakeem

The ongoing transformation of Speedway into a pedestrian mall has contributed to students’ familiarity with construction. However, many have been left wondering when the construction will end and how the $36 million project will cater to their needs.

An information session updating the status of the Speedway Mall project Thursday answered these questions and allowed attendees to interact with UT officials, architects and others involved with the project. 

The new Mall, which is scheduled to be completed in January 2018, will provide an outdoor learning space with more tables and electrical outlets, landscaping and lighting, said Jim Walker, director at the UT Office of Sustainability. There will also be four food truck locations along the new Mall with two at 21st Street and Speedway, and two at 24th Street and Speedway.

“Speedway will provide a space for students to gather informally, an area where student activities and student organizations can be promoted, a place for campus-wide festivals, performances by student music and dance groups,” said Mark Brooks, project manager at the UT System Office of Facilities Planning and Construction. “A campus transformation with the Speedway Mall project will make a significant enhancement in the educational experience of all UT-Austin students.”

All traffic in the area will be limited to emergency and University vehicles. Parking on Speedway will also be eliminated.

“This shouldn’t be a street where cars or buses have the same access as everyone else,” Walker said. “This should be a place where pedestrians have priority, where students have priorities in the middle of campus.”

Significant attention has also been placed on lighting, communications manager for University Operations Laurie Lentz said.

“We focused on not having the lights covered by the trees so that at night, it’s going to be a well-lit place,” Lentz said. “There has been a lot of importance placed on pedestrian safety, both night and day.”

There has been an emphasis on quickly completing the two phases of the project in front of Jester Center and Gregory Gym, which are scheduled for completion in January 2017.

“With all the new improvements, we’re expecting students to say ‘How did we ever survive without this?’” Walker said. “They’re going to look at old pictures and go ‘How did you guys live
like this?’”