AUSTIN (KXAN) — If you are one of the many who travel along Old San Antonio Road to avoid Interstate 35 in south Austin, your shortcut may be going away. The Watershed Protection Department is proposing closing a section of the road near Southpark Meadows.
“During a 100-year storm event, which is a large event, there is a one percent chance of that storm happening in any given year, that low water crossing can crest at 17-feet of flooding,” Reem Zoun, a supervising engineer with the city’s Watershed Protection Department said. “During a smaller storm event, a two-year storm event which we can consider a more frequent storm event, it is at a four feet risk of inundation. At a four-feet of inundation, a car can easily be swept off and go into the creek.”
City officials said there is a dangerous, low water crossing that causes safety concerns due to flood risks.
“We drive up and down these roads,” Caroline Riley Carberry said. She and her husband have been educating children at the Whole Life Learning Center off Old San Antonio Road for nearly a decade.
The potential closure worries Carberry who said the road has only gotten busier since they set up shop.
“The thought of closing the road feels irresponsible to me, we need more access, not less,” she added.
Kristi Ingram, a nearby neighbor who travels daily on Old San Antonio Road agreed, “I don’t think permanently closing down any road is a good solution. I think maybe closing it while they work on some solution but not permanently.”
While the city’s proposal would close the section of road surrounding the low water crossing for drivers, it would stay open for pedestrians, bicyclists and emergency vehicles.
“Typically people don’t walk into fast-moving flood water, but unfortunately people in vehicles — they tend to drive into fast-moving flood water,” Zoun said.
Since 2013, department officials said there have been five flood-related incidents at this one low water crossing. These incidents put drivers and emergency responders at risk and to avoid that, they want to close the crossing.
Carberry said she has a better solution.
“I think that a barricade that goes down when it rains and keeping it open is an amazing solution,” Carberry said.
City officials said they’ve tried that in the past.
“What happens with barricades is people drive around them, we haven’t found it to be very effective,” Zoun said. “Gate arm is another option the department has used in the past. We found that to be unreliable and not as effective in a storm event so we are moving away from it.”
City officials say they’ve looked at other options to keep it open but based on several factors including cost and construction concerns they’re recommending closure.
They add closing it seasonally would not work as weather can be unpredictable, “A large storm can happen anytime,” Zoun added.
On Tuesday, Watershed Protection officials will host a public meeting at the Akins High School library starting at 6:30 p.m. The city also has an online webinar option for those who cannot attend in person. There is a limit of 100 attendees for the webinar.
FM 1626 Traffic Safety
Carberry also said she would like to see a traffic light at FM 1626 and OId San Antonio Road. The City of Austin is in the early planning stages of a traffic signal on FM 1626 and an extension of Brezza Lane. These improvements are part of the city’s Mobility Program.
New Fire and EMS Station on Old San Antonio Road
Just down the road from the potential closure site on Old San Antonio Road a new fire and EMS station opened in April.
The new $9.3 million Onion Creek Fire and EMS station will help the Austin Fire Department and Austin-Travis County EMS improve response times in the growing area. This station is one of six that will address the ongoing growth across the county.