Updated 10/30/2012 05:16 PM
New downtown wastewater tunnel to improve efficiency, reduce energy
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
As existing high rises fill up with tenants, more cranes continue to climb their way into Austin's skyline. It was not too long ago former Austin Mayor Will Wynn set a goal of having 25,000 people living downtown by 2015.
A few ceremonial cranks of a wrench later, Austin leaders complete a project they say can make that goal attainable. City leaders held a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday on a new wastewater tunnel.
The tunnel carries sewage from downtown Austin to a treatment plant in East Austin, crossing under Lady Bird Lake three times in the process.
Austin Water Director Greg Meszaros says the tunnel is a project 10 years in the making.
"All kinds of investment, billions of dollars in investment, now and into the future,” he said. “We need to have the appropriate water and wastewater infrastructure."
Officials took us on a tour of the project last February, more than 85-feet underground and underneath Lady Bird Lake. The tunnel retires a system that's more than 50 years old, required several lift stations and was at capacity.
"If people couldn't flush their toilets, if that wastewater had no place to go, then we can't build the buildings for all these people to live, buildings for them to work in," Annie Armbrust with Real Estate Council of Austin said.
While the tunnel’s resin pipes cost more than concrete, city officials say they will pay for themselves by saving millions in maintenance and repair costs.
"It allowed us to take offline some lift stations that were used to pump wastewater previously,” Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez said. “It reduces energy consumption, improves efficiency."
Officials say the resin pipes will double the life span of concrete, saving millions in maintenance and at least one entire system overhaul.