Austin, Texas, East Sixth Street – plans to overhaul the notoriously infamous East Sixth Street may soon be taking place, with Austin’s public works director Howard Lazarus introducing a $19 million dollar plan to enlarge the street’s dilapidated roads, sidewalks and utilities. East Sixth currently suffers from a host of issues, including an outdated circuitry system that won’t allow the area to keep Christmas lights on during the holiday season and frequent flooding during rainstorms. The proposed improvements include 18-foot-wide sidewalks, three lanes for cars (one of which will be turned into parallel parking after rush hour) trees and some other improvements that are aimed to make the area more accessible for pedestrian usage. Pedestrian usage is currently a hot-button issue, with East Sixth being widely known for attracting crowds of young, sometimes tipsy patrons.
Jennifer Walker, Director of Marketing Communications at the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau, was frank in stating that “…unfortunately, the media often refers to Sixth Street as ‘Dirty Sixth.’ That’s not the reputation I think anyone in Austin wants.”
Certainly the issue of pedestrian safety is of supreme importance. With bars such as the Blind Pig Pub and the Chupacabra Cantina raking in as much as half a million dollars in liquor sales each month, the drinking culture on Sixth Street is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. The area around Sixth is one of the busiest in Austin at night, but the crowds have become a mixed blessing, with the drinking culture causing safety issues and alienating some surrounding neighbors and businesses.
The project has not been put forth without protest, as Sixth Street remains one of Austin’s most historical areas. Current community feedback has been mixed, with an alternative proposal submitted by the Pecan Street Merchants Association, who wants to reduce traffic to two lanes and add head-in angle parking on both sides of the street. Such a change would add additional parking for merchants, but is likely to be shot down at city hall because it does not meet current standards for new sidewalks and reduced traffic flow.
Tim League, the CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, warned of the issues his company had to face when opening their location on Sixth, some of which, he stated, would have been “showstoppers” for other businesses.
Another concern is the issue of delays caused by construction. Similar issues plagued the construction on Colorado Street last year, including obstructed sidewalks and business entrances.
Currently, the project still has a while to go. The project has to compete with other transportation proposals, including Project Connect’s urban mass scheme. As of now, a specific timeline for the project is not in place. Tim League has given the plan a big thumbs up. “I think it’s a humdinger. Full steam ahead in my book.” The Shannon Schmitz Group echoes his enthusiasm. Whatever makes our beautiful city a better place to live in has our vote.
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