Progress made on 18th Avenue NW

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 30, 2002

It's one of Austin's busiest streets and its construction project has motorists confused, frustrated and demanding to know when it will all end.

Anyone who's driven along 18th Avenue NW lately will be relieved to know that the orange barrels and the construction equipment should disappear by the end of November.

Though some may be skeptical of the anticipated completion date, County Engineer Mike Hanson assures them it's possible. In fact, he says, "we're ahead of schedule at this stage in the game."

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Austin Utilities has been working to replace the water and gas mains and Hanson expects contractors will begin work on the storm sewer this week.

"It's looking pretty good," he says.

Currently, crews are working on the north side of the road. Once the storm sewer is in place, the curb and gutter system will be constructed, the lanes will be paved over and the construction crews will move to the south side of the road. When it's completed, 18th Ave. NW will be four lanes wide and in some places, turn lanes will make it six lanes wide.

While construction of the road should be done by the end of November, Hanson says crews will have to come back in the spring to finish sidewalks, lighting and the medians.

Until the bulk of the construction is finished, businesses and residents along the road are coping. Matt Wagner, owner of Wagner's True Value Hardware, says the construction has caused a few problems for his store. "We've probably been closed for construction for eight hours in the past month because they were tearing out our driveway or the electricity was out," he says. "For the customers, it's been difficult because the lanes are really tight and getting in and out of the parking lot has been real difficult."

However, he notes, "our sales are up from this time last year. So, (consumers) are getting to me. They don't like it, but they're getting to me."

Wagner says customers also have been concerned "about the safety aspects. They've said 'this is pretty hazardous out here,' and made those kinds of statements to me."

Safety also has been a concern of those who live along the street. For the residents of Oak Park Village, an alternate entrance to the complex has been opened so they don't have to drive in the construction. "We had been keeping that exit closed because non-residents had been using it as a shortcut, but we have open at this time," explains Ken Davis, president of the Oak Park Village Association.

Residents in the complex also experienced problems when the utilities company worked on the water systems. The water at Oak Park Village was turned off for a few hours and when it was turned on, the pressure was so high some pressure valves broke and eight units experienced water damage from flooding, Davis says. "The utilities company has accepted responsibility for the problem, though."

Aside from those things, he says, the residents in the complex haven't been inconvenienced.

Wagner agrees it hasn't been all bad. "The utilities company has worked really well with us. When they had to work on the electrical system, they were here three or four hours early so we could be open by 8 a.m., which is our usual opening time."

Most businesses, Hanson says, "have been very cooperative and very understanding. We haven't had a lot of complaints. We've been working really hard to keep everyone happy. Once we're done, everything will be great, but it is a little trying at times."

Amanda L. Rohde can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at