Sixth Street to undergo major construction

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Kevin Sweat speaks to local business owners about Public Works’ plans to renovate areas of Sixth Street.  Public Works hopes to have the project complete within two years.    

Photo Credit: Jarrid Denman | Daily Texan Staff

In the next two years, Sixth Street may undergo major construction that will change pedestrian and vehicle traffic and expand the variety of businesses in the area.

At the Sixth Street stakeholder meeting Tuesday, Louis Lindsey, project management supervisor, and the public works staff in Austin presented designs that would make changes to Sixth Street, such as new roads and sidewalks, wider pedestrian areas and trees. According to Lindsey, the Downtown Austin Plan, a long-term plan to promote sustainability in the city, is the guide for the project. Austin City Council passed an ordinance in 2011 to begin the implementation process. 

The main motivation for the redesign is to reduce tripping hazards because of uneven or broken sidewalks, to mitigate the difficulty maintaining and cleaning sidewalks and to eliminate pavement
cave-ins, she said. 

Keri Juarez, assistant director of public work, said the streets will be widened to include three lanes, including a managed lane. The managed lane will be open to vehicle use in the mornings during increased traffic flow and will be used for parking and unloading the rest of the time. The remaining two lanes will be used for permanent traffic flow and will be redesigned. 

Garnett said the pavement and subgrade — the material put underneath roads — are failing. 

“Sixth Street, I believe, will become a much more pleasant place to go to after this project is done,” Lindsey said. “It will be more flexible, more usable, more pedestrian-friendly.”

Lindsey said the redesign will benefit students who want to enjoy the Sixth Street area.

”To the extent that UT students like to go there, I think they will like to go there even more after this project is done,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey said the improved street environment will provide the conditions for more variety in the kinds of businesses on Sixth Street. The way the street is constructed now, it is difficult to maintain and clean, according to Lindsey. But the improved physical aspects of the street would invite more daytime activities that are family-friendly.

At the stakeholders meeting, Fred Schmidt, co-founder of Wild About Music Galleries, said as a downtown business and property owner, there will be short-term costs because of redevelopment, but there will be long-term benefits, including higher rents.

In response to those citizens and business owners who are against the project, Juarez said the conflicts are typical, and the public works staff is providing both incentives and penalties to encourage completion on time. Juarez said two years is a conservative estimate.

“We’re talking about people’s livelihoods,” Juarez said. “Construction can be devastating to businesses … We’re trying to tailor the [construction] contract to meet the needs of our community.”

Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed Keri Juarez's quotes to Susan Garnett