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TxDOT's proposed I-35 construction would close parts of Waller Beach Park

The proposed I-35 construction would make TxDOT buy Waller Beach Park, which would close parts of the walking trail for six years.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) plans to buy Waller Beach Park to store construction materials during the proposed expansion of Interstate 35 through Austin.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the National Park Service have all been working with TxDOT for this closure.

But some hikers who walk this trail every week are worried.

"Obviously, I love walking this trail, so obviously, it's going to be disappointing if they shut it down," said Brandon Langer, an Austin resident.

TxDOT's plan is to make a detour on East Avenue, the road adjacent to the park. And since the new detour would be on the roadside as opposed to the trail, safety concerns have been top of mind.

"The construction will be multiple years," said Ricardo Soliz, Park Planning division manager. "And so, it'll be a while for all of those improvements to occur. And really, that is the only safe way that if we want the public out of the construction area."

Because TxDOT will use the park for more than six months, it is required to buy the land. And although it will remain TxDOT’s land after the six years, the department doesn't have any plans to change it.

"It'll go back to what it was before, the hike-and-bike trail, and we will just have public use of that property," Soliz said.

Because TxDOT is buying the land, it will have to find an equivalent park as a replacement.

"What they have to do is then they have to go find us something that, it is comparable, something that is well, near waterfront that the public will be able to enjoy that land, that new land, just as much as they're enjoying Waller Beach," Soliz said.

TxDOT is currently looking for replacement properties but has not settled on one yet. The department is holding community meetings to discuss the replacement with the public.

A statement from The Trail Conservancy said it shares concerns about the impact of this closure and the safety for people using the trail.  

Boomtown is KVUE's series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more Boomtown stories, head to KVUE.com/Boomtown.

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