Cision PR Newswire

Faulty Toll Road Engineering Cuts Off Key Redevelopment Site, Creates East Austin Environmental Pollution

AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 3, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Negligent construction techniques by Central Texas' main toll road agency have caused significant environmental and water quality issues in East Austin and are affecting the redevelopment of TECH 3443, a landmark technology and life sciences site.

In an important court hearing Tuesday, TECH 3443 — a RIC Austin development that is turning the former Motorola campus into a critical mixed-use innovation district — will seek to force the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) to fix the drainage problems it created on the property as part of the U.S. 183 toll road construction.

The CTRMA's faulty engineering work is eroding the soil under a key road on the TECH 3443 property, quickly causing the road to become impassable. So while the TECH 3443 project is successfully attracting technology and life sciences to the property, the CTRMA's missteps are slowing the company's efforts to redevelop other parts of the site.

In addition, the CTRMA's construction floods a section of the East Austin property with heavily polluted runoff every time there is a significant storm. The agency's failure to address the problem allows even more pollution to flow downstream from the highway, eventually ending up in the Colorado River.

"CTRMA's actions in this case have been really tragic — not just for us, but also for East Austin, the community's water quality, and the innovation-based economy we're all trying to create in Austin," Adam Zarafshani, head of operations for TECH 3443. "They only need to fix their mistake. They shouldn't need a judge to tell them to do the right thing and honor what they agreed to — they should just do it. It's the right thing to do."

In a virtual hearing at 9:00 am Tuesday before County Court Judge Eric Shepperd, TECH 3443 will seek to have the CTRMA honor a tentative agreement from 2019 to fix the faulty drainage work that created this problem. The toll road builder walked away from the agreement months after its own lawyers negotiated it, leaving TECH 3443 with a significant infrastructure challenge and no support from the agency that caused it.

The court hearing concerns a detention pond on the east side of Highway 183, roughly a mile south of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The CTRMA dug out the pond in 2016 to take and hold rainwater runoff from the highway during big storms.

One side of the pond is bordered by the land that runs beneath TECH 3443's road, known as Semiconductor Drive. CTRMA did nothing to fortify or strengthen that land, treating it essentially as a dirt wall on the side of a bathtub. Naturally, the wall started to erode when heavy rains filled the pond, soon taking Semiconductor Road with it.

"The water (from the detention pond) is eventually going to collapse that road," wrote Keith Moody, one of the CTRMA's own engineering experts, in a January 2018 report.

Zarafshani said that while much of the project is thriving, Semiconductor Road creates access to the northwestern quadrant. That area is key to the company's long-term plans to convert the abandoned Motorola site into a hub of startups, researchers and well-known companies in the technology, life sciences, and pharmaceutical industries.

In addition to its other problems, the CTRMA's design of the detention pond violates the City of Austin's requirements for such structures. Rather than providing water quality treatment features, it has designed a bypass pipe to divert the first half inch of stormwater runoff with the highest concentration of pollutants directly onto TECH 3443's redevelopment site, then downstream into the Colorado River.

"The redevelopment of the Motorola campus represents a profound opportunity for the region, and especially East Austin," Zarafshani said. "The only thing we want from the CTRMA is to fix its mistakes so that TECH 3443 can meet its full potential."

For more information, please contact:
Steve Scheibal: 512-762-8808
steve@newwestcomms.com

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SOURCE TECH 3443