City gives tour of Waller Creek Tunnel Inlet Facility


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist DAVID GARDNER

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on March 22, 2013 at 6:21 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 22 at 6:21 PM

AUSTIN -- A wooden fence blocks the view into Austin's Waterloo park, keeping the work being done by construction crews out of sight. That was the case until Friday when City workers gave the media a tour.

What you can see is a massive hole filled with concrete and steel. It is the Waller Creek Tunnel Inlet Facility; the area where floodwaters will enter the tunnel.

"Austin is in the heart of flash flood alley," said Joe Pantalion of the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department. "Some of our creeks can go from bone dry to flooding within less than an hour."

A lesson the city has learned time and time again. The most flood damage was done in 1915. That was a 100-year flood event that caused the deaths of 35 people.

And on Memorial Day in 1981, 13 people died when flood waters ripped through Austin, destroying $35 million worth of property.

"That was really a wake-up call in terms of needing to really dedicate a lot of resources and hours toward protecting our citizens from the threat of flooding," said Pantalion.

The Waller Creek Tunnel Project is the city's largest line of defense, totaling $146.5 million.

KVUE News took a tour of the tunnel itself last May. It runs more than one mile long, is 70 feet underground and about twice as deep as an I-35 overpass. Crews will spend the next year laying concrete in the tunnel.

Work on the dam off Trinity Street, where the water will flow into Lady Bird Lake, is also underway.

The inlet construction begins the final mile of the project.

"The routine they have right now is about every two to three days we pour concrete into the structure," said Project Manager Gary Jackson.

By the end of 2014, the inlet construction area will be a park complete with a 35 foot deep pond and observation patio that is open to the public.

"One of the things we're doing is we're having to elevate this area to take it up out of the flood plain to level it out so that it can become a usable park again," said Jackson.

Crews will use the material they're digging out to create the inlet facility to build the park. They're also building bar screens to catch debris before it flows into the tunnel. Ultimately leading to a cleaner, flood free Waller Creek.

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