AUSTIN (KXAN) - It's a massive project that's been in the planning stages for decades. Now, it is a project that's moved from the planning stages to construction
"At a very basic level people expect government to address basic problems, such as flooding," said City Council Member Sheryl Cole.
Once complete the mile-long underground tunnel that's big enough to hold a semi-truck, will carry flood waters from Waller Creek under Downtown Austin downstream to Lady Bird Lake.
"I think this is the catalyst for changing Austin into a great international city because so many things are connected to it," said Cole.
The property surrounding the creek is currently in the 100-year-flood plain which limits new development in eastern downtown. But the property will no longer be in the flood plain once construction on the tunnel is done in 2014. City officials expect developers to come in, snatch up the land and start building new buildings.
The city estimates the value of the 26 acres to be almost $4 billion.
"Red River is one of those places that we have to protect," said James Moody, who owns Mohawk, one many live music venues on Red River.
The street known for it's live music venues borders the creek and includes much of the land that will be taken out of the flood plain.
While he thinks the tunnel will be good for the area, he and others are a little worried the land where the venues are, will become to expensive for many to afford.
"We feel like there is a difference between cleaning an area and sanitizing it and we want to make sure we are protecting the soul of that area," Moody said.
City officials said once the land is out of the flood plain, it will be worth almost $4 billion.
The project's $144 million price tag will be paid through what's known as a tax-increment finance district, which sets a portion of the money collected from the land will be used to pay the city and the county back.
Austin voters approved money for the tunnel in late 1998, but the city soon realized the cost was much more than what voters had approved.
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.
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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.
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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.