City secures three large grants for the upcoming one-way project

Published 9:07 am Tuesday, June 4, 2024

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The City of Austin has been able to secure a trio of grants that will be put toward the upcoming one-way project on Oakland Avenue and First Avenue SW.

In a report to the City Council during its work session Monday night, Assistant City Engineer Mitch Wenum reported that two of the grants are state funds while the third is federal funding.

The largest of the three grants is for $1.5 million from the Local Road Improvement Program which is state money that will go toward the Oakland Avenue portion of the project.

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Another $1 million in 2028 federal STIP funds will go toward the First Avenue SW portion of the project while $300,000 in additional state funding from the Active Transportation Program will go toward the sidewalk and pedestrian ramp improvements on Oakland Avenue.

To date, the city has been able to secure $7,860,000 for the three year project that starts in 2025. In total, the project is estimated to cost around $14,200,000.

Wenum said that the city is expected to see plans from WHKS reach the 60% mark in the next couple weeks, which will mark the first opportunity to see detailed plans of the project.

Wenum also reported that the city has approached Firestone regarding plans to change the stretch of two-way to a one-way in front of its business, between Main Street and First Street NE.

Some of the council expressed concern when that addition was brought up in March, indicating that the change might create a hardship for the business, however, Wenum reported Monday that Firestone was indeed open to the idea.

EAB progress

Prior to the work session, Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Jason Sehon asked for and was granted permission by the council to begin receiving bids for the removal of ash trees on city properties due to the advancement of the emerald ash borer.

There are approximately 2,000 ash trees on city property and to date 500 ash trees have been treated, leaving 1,500 remaining that will need to be removed.

Sehon indicated Monday night that the forestry team has developed a four-year plan to remove the 1,500 trees at a rate of just over 200 trees annually. They are also looking to contract out for the removal of another 175 ash trees a year during that same period. 

However, Sehon also said that timeline might have to be moved up some because of the rapid deterioration of some trees.

“We are noticing a lot of dead standing ash trees that we didn’t think were dead two months ago,” he said. “We might have to move that up a little bit.”

With a plan to take out the badly deteriorated trees now, Sehon said it will give them time to search out additional grant funding to help with the process. He added, when asked by the council how much he estimates each tree would cost, for a 21-inch wide tree, on average, the cost would be around $1,000 to $1,200 per tree.