Construction in West Campus causes traffic, inconvenience

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Jose Manuel, City of Austin construction worker, covers newly laid water pipelines on Seton Avenue Wednesday afternoon. The pipelines are set to supply clean drinking water to the surrounding areas, one of the many construction projects currently taking place in West Campus.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Students bobbed and weaved their way through a maze of traffic this week as construction in West Campus continued.

Work is being done on Rio Grande Street, from its intersection with Martin Luther King Boulevard to its intersection with 24th Street. In addition to improvements to the sidewalks and infrastructure along the road, the road surface is being pulled up to reveal the barren ground underneath before contractors rebuild it from the ground up, according to Austin Public Works Department project manager Jessica Salinas. She said she hopes the $4.4 million project will be complete in December 2011 or January 2012. Phase two of the project, reconstruction of Rio Grande from 24th through 29th streets, will begin soon thereafter.

Completing the project before the fall semester started would have made more sense, said deaf education senior Jordan Castilla.

“It causes a bit of a traffic jam,” Castilla said. “I know they worked on it during the summer, but I think it would be best if they kept to building during breaks for West Campus.”

Once complete, Rio Grande will include a new two-way bike lane and should be able to serve the community for at least five years without major maintenance construction, barring any new water line installations, Salinas said.

“This is a full-depth reconstruction,” Salinas said. “That includes everything in the right of way — water lines, wastewater, storm drains, sidewalks, streetlights, trees and benches.”

She said since the project began in October 2010, the Public Works Department has worked extensively to manage increased traffic flow for special university events, such as move-in days.

“We’re definitely coordinating with the University to accommodate for special events and housing,” Salinas said. “On Saturday, for the football game traffic, contractors will stop construction.”

The construction noise and detoured driving routes cause the most disturbances, said Lindsay Judy, speech and language pathology senior and West Campus resident.

“I can hear it, and sometimes I have to take 15 extra turns to get around the detours,” Judy said. “Only when I’m driving does it usually affect me.”

Biochemistry alumna Christine Su, who still lives in West Campus, said she thinks delays will pay off once construction is complete.

“Because of the detours, I have to take other routes, but I’m pretty patient about it,” Su said. “For all the disadvantages, it will be worth it. I’m just waiting for it to be done. Already this side of the street is a lot better.”

Printed on Friday, September 2, 2011 as: Confounding Construction.