AUSTIN (KXAN) - Excavation on the entrance shaft for the Waller Creek Tunnel began early Wednesday morning between 4th and 5th Streets just West of I-35. A wooden fence surrounds a one block area where the digging is taking place.
The 30-foot wide tunnel will run about 70 feet under Waller Creek all the way to Lady Bird Lake, and will help control flood waters during torrential rains on the unpredictable Waller Creek.
"We've been waiting for that to finally come through and take place," said Roland Cantu.
Cantu is a manager for Iron Works Barbecue at Ceasar Chavez and Red River. The eatery has been an Austin staple for more than 30 years, and sits on the banks of Waller Creek.
"We've heard a lot of different projects that were supposed to come down here and happen," he said. "And then when the high tech boom came (and went)...washed away a lot of plans. And now it looks like there are some pretty strong, firm plans that are going to go through. So, we're excited to see what's going to happen down here."
The tunnel should be completed the end of 2014, and will pave the way for 28 acres of development along Waller Creek from Waterloo Park all the way to Lady Bird Lake. It will be the largest urban creek development project in the country. While some may compare it to San Antonio's Riverwalk , the City of Austin says this project will be unique.
"I think it would be a lot better for business," Cantu said.
"Put some flowers in here or something," said Austinite Louis Meeks. "Make it look more presentable."
Bike paths, walk ways, special lights and art are all ideas for the area. But, a finalized plan is not yet complete. The Waller Creek Conservancy is kicking off an international design competition next month . A finalized design will be chosen May of 2012. The Conservancy will work closely with the winning design team and city officials at that time to craft policies that support the implementation of the selected concept.
The Waller Creek tunnel should be completed by the end of 2014, with the revitalization of Waller Creek to happen soon after.
Light snow flurries were reported early Saturday just north of the KXAN viewing area. Sub-freezing temperatures along with a slight chance of light snow, sleet and freezing rain will continue through Sunday morning.
Investigators are still trying to figure out who murdered an Austin teacher in Benghazi on Thursday.
Back in June, Governor Rick Perry signed a new law officially letting teachers and students use greetings such as "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hannukah" in school, all without getting in any trouble.
The Round Rock-based computer giant, Dell Inc., is offering some workers voluntary buyouts as it seeks to trim costs and boost productivity.
The Austin Humane Society reopened to the public Friday after closing its doors for six weeks.
Sub-freezing temperatures and an approaching upper level disturbance could combine to produce some patchy freezing drizzle or sleet Saturday and early Sunday morning.