Austin could spend $8-16M to fix Shoal Creek landslide


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly one year after a landslide damaged a section of Shoal Creek Trail, Austin’s Watershed Protection Department says it has come up with a plan to repair the hillside that had tumbled down in a significant rain event last May.

Mike Kelly, Managing Engineer at the Watershed Protection Department, said the city has been studying different ways to stabilize the slope. The process cost them $1 million. 

Kelly said they now have a plan they would like to move forward with, and the estimated cost for the repair could range from $8 to 16 million. 

This update comes just weeks after Kelly said they discovered a new crack on the hill.

“About three weeks ago, we were out on the site, and we noticed the top most portion of the slope, which is up by the neighborhood, has moved,” he explained. “That’s significant because the closer to the property, the more danger there is.”

Kelly said the plan they’ve chosen after consulting with property owners whose backyards sustained damage involves drilling vertically into the ground to create retaining walls.

“They can be augmented with steel cables that drill back down into the slope and anchor into solid limestone,” he said. “Then we can have a different kind of anchoring technique, which will go directly, horizontally into the slope of that upper limestone, which continues to separate.”

At this point, however, it’s not clear who will pay exactly how much in the repair process.

“We still have to negotiate an agreement because this does cross public and private, so we have two distinct entities that have to agree upon how do we enter each other’s property, how much can the city pay for it and what is the responsibility of private property owners,” Kelly said.

For a year now, a section of Shoal Creek Trail just north of 24th Street has been off limits to dog walkers, runners and bicyclists. They’ve been detouring onto a sidewalk on Lamar Boulevard. 

“It’s functional, but for such a vital commuter corridor, it’s not sufficient,” said Daniel Alvarado who’s on the Ausin Bicycle Advisory Council and Urban Transportation Commission. 

Alvarado said he bikes to and from work by using Shoal Creek Trail.

“There’s been a few instances where construction has kicked me out to Lamar, which is certainly not safe,” he said. 

“It does lead directly to downtown, which makes it a nice viable corridor for pedestrians,” said Chris Levine.

Levine said it’s disappointing to hear the trail may remain closed for several more months. 

“I guess if they’re going to do it to hopefully insure that it doesn’t happen again, do it right this time, so it doesn’t close down again in the future,” he said. 

“I would like to see more attention paid to these vital infrastructure lines that are the only safe way to get downtown,” said Alvarado. “If the same thing happened on a major road, it would be fixed in a matter of weeks.”

It’s not clear how long the negotiation process between the city and homeowners will take. After that, Kelly said the City Council will need to approve the plan, and the actual construction will take six to nine months.

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