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Waller Creek tunnel


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A long planned tunnel that would divert flood water from Waller Creek through downtown may finally have a funding solution. The city of Austin and Travis County may come together to create a special tax district on the Waller Creek corridor to pay off the cost of the project. A great deal economic development is expected to move in once the flood controls are in place. The new projects in the tax district would pay the same amount of taxes as the rest of the city, but that money would be used to pay off the debt of the project. It would be paid off over 20 years with the entire amount of taxes collected from the district by the city going toward the debt and half collected by the county used for the same purpose. The county could use the other half collected for other purposes. There should be more talks between the city and county about the project over the coming weeks.

Without the tunnel, more than 40 buildings and countless people would be threatened in the event of a 100-year flood, which has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any year. In January, emergency workers had to rescue a man trapped in the rushing waters of Waller Creek. He had jumped in to save a woman who was swept away.

With the tunnel, the water level could be controlled to ensure a clean, constant flow and provide an amenity similar to San Antonio's River Walk, city officials say. The plan does not include money for trails or other infrastructure along the creek.

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The Travis County Commissioners are expected to vote this week on an agreement to share the cost of the Waller Creek Tunnel Project with the city of Austin. All signs are pointing to it being approved.

During storms, a wide inlet in Waterloo Park would catch floodwater and send it down a 70-foot vertical drop. The water would then flow through a subway-sized tunnel that runs to Town Lake beneath Sabine Street. It would take about six years to complete the design and construction of the project.

The tunnel would keep the water in the creek bed at a steady level below five feet and safely within the banks. Today, the water can rise more than 15 feet in some places. About 40 buildings, including the Austin Police Department, and 12 roads are susceptible to flooding during severe storms.

When the weather is dry, Town Lake water would be circulated up the tunnel and down the creek to produce a clean and constant stream.

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