AUSTIN, Texas - Residents living below the West William Cannon Bridge in South Austin are voicing frustrations about the recent ongoing stabilization project.
Wiley, a South Austin resident, took FOX 7 on a walking tour of a few backyards sitting in the shadows of the bridge.
"You can see the soil grout all over this yard right here," he said. "It kills the grass is what it does."
In August 2022, the City observed cracks and potholes forming in the bridge road due to movement underneath the asphalt.
A temporary fix was made before stabilization work began this year.
Work is occurring between Cannonleague Drive and the Union Pacific railroad tracks. Crews will install more than 500 soil nails into the bridge’s retaining walls before adding a new layer of concrete to stabilize the sediment beneath the roadway, according to the City.
However, direct neighbors of the bridge are pretty fed up with the cement grout and dust blowing into yards.
"Living under these conditions is not very comfortable," said Beatrice, another resident who has lived in her home long enough to watch the bridge first being built.
It’s not just the impact to yards. They are concerned about the toxicity of the cement.
"It’s floated through the neighborhood and if you read up on cement grout it’s pretty toxic," said Wiley.
"There is an acrid smell of chemicals lingering in the backyard that is irritating to the eyes and nose," said another resident via email. "My wife is particularly sensitive to this sort of thing and has experienced some irritation inside the house even without going back there."
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In May, the City began stabilizing the retaining walls using emergency funds from its operation budget.
"Prior to construction, residents near the bridge were notified of upcoming construction by door hangers. The door hanger included an invitation to a virtual meet the contractor meeting on May 4. Presentation materials and meeting recordings were made available online for those who were unable to attend. Residents were given the contact information of the construction inspector and project manager so that they could reach out with individual concerns or questions. The inspector continues to speak with residents one-on-one in person when questions arise or via text," said a City spokesperson in a statement shared with FOX 7.
"Additionally, a project website was created so residents could learn more about the project and submit questions to the project team. A stakeholder list of nearby residents was created, and they were emailed notifications about upcoming construction and ways to ask questions."
However, residents said more proactive measures should have been taken.
"They should’ve put a barrier all the way across to protect the neighborhood rather than pollute it with toxic chemicals," said Wiley.
According to the City, residents who feel the City has caused damage to their property or person can file a claim by sending a letter within 45 days from the date of the incident with the following information: date, time, location, description of what occurred, type of damage(s) or nature of injury, copies of invoices, receipts, and/or estimates, any additional documents supporting the claim (i.e., photos, diagrams, statements, police reports, etc.) and a full mailing address and daytime telephone number.
The information can be mailed, faxed or emailed to:
City of Austin Law Department
P.O. Box 1546
Austin, Texas 78767-1546
Filing a claim is something at least some of the residents plan to do. Wiley shared estimates with FOX 7 for his yard and his neighbors’ yards for thousands of dollars' worth of work including replacing grass and cleaning windows - damage they claim is a direct result of the ongoing bridge work.
"It’s a mess," he said.
According to the City, the bridge repairs are considered an "urgent safety project."
"The safety of our community is a top priority for the City of Austin. All City of Austin work is done in compliance with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulations, and all projects are regulated under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.
Before construction begins on any project, the team works to identify all unique site conditions that may require additional safety measures. Once work is underway, our teams will adapt to meet the needs of the project site.
For the West William Cannon Bridge project, our contractor used an industrial work tarp to add another physical barrier between the work and the residential properties. Additionally, once construction is completed a 6-foot privacy fence will be installed to address residents’ concerns.
The project team is working with a focus on minimizing construction impacts to residents and businesses. All project work is being completed within City easements."
Construction is expected to last through November 2023.
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