Hearing on Pacelli roadway goes before Council Monday

Published 7:28 pm Saturday, April 5, 2014

Pacelli Catholic Schools may get one step closer to a school campus at the Austin City Council’s public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Pacelli officials asked the city earlier this year to vacate Third Avenue Northwest between Fourth and Fifth streets. The Austin City Council will hold a public hearing on Pacelli’s request and then discuss whether to go forward with the move to take the roadway private.

“This is an antiquated and dangerous corner,” Pacelli President Jim Hamburge said last month of the Fourth Street and Third Avenue Northwest intersection, which lines up crooked. “The intersection is not designed in a manner that’s safe for cars or for pedestrians.”

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Pacelli officials say taking Third Avenue private would result in safer transportation for students, almost all of whom from elementary to high school walk between Pacelli High School and Pacelli Elementary School on a daily basis. Pacelli would create a school campus for its students if the city vacates the road.

Yet taking the roadway private would mean significant costs for the city, according to public works officials. City officials conducted a traffic study of the area and say getting rid of traffic lights at Fourth Street and Third Avenue Northwest would likely mean a new signal intersection at Fourth Street and Fourth Avenue, which could cost between $150,000 to $200,000. The vacation would also create a three-block stretch without road connections.

About 7,000 to 10,000 cars travel down Fourth Street Northwest every day, according to city estimates. In addition, about 1,300 cars use Third Avenue to go west and about 870 use the roadway to go east.

Pacelli parents, volunteers and officials came up with the vacation, meaning to make the public road private, during its 100th anniversary celebration last year when residents spoke of what they hoped for the Catholic school’s next 100 years. Pacelli’s recent $3 million fundraising campaign also gives school officials leeway to think of a Pacelli campus, though Hamburge notes most of the money involved will go to school infrastructure improvements such as boiler replacements and electric work.