City of Austin to invest nearly $1M for Rainey Street District improvements

Safety improvements costing about a million dollars could soon be coming to the Rainey Street District.

"Visibly intoxicated, getting a little bit too close to the water," Austin City Council District 9 Representative Zohaib Qadri said while describing a man who was found on a trail near Lady Bird Lake earlier this month.

As part of Austin-Travis County EMS’ new pilot program, EMS was nearby, and they were able to help the man. The agency now staffs two medics at the end of Rainey Street near the water on Friday and Saturday nights.

"I think is extremely important, that has already shown itself to be working in terms of avoiding a tragedy," Qadri said.

In March, the city put up temporary solar lighting, signage, a fence along the trail, and a temporary camera near the trail head. This came after 30-year-old Jason John was found dead in Lady Bird Lake. His autopsy reported he drowned. 

Since, four more men have been pulled from the lake.

On July 24, the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office released the autopsy report for Jonathan Honey, who was found dead in Lady Bird Lake. According to the autopsy report, Honey’s death was ruled an accidental drowning. 

Investigators said he had been drinking with friends at a bar on Rainey Street and left them to find food. Honey was found dead 15-hours later in the water. Medical Examiners found alcohol and a chemical consistent with his medical prescription in his system. 

The Austin Police Department does not suspect foul play.

"Because of the tragic death of Jason John and so many folks before and after him, we took it up as a dais and truthfully as an office to make sure that tragedies like that become a thing of the past," Qadri said.

Family and friends whose loved ones were found dead in the lake said improvements need to be made not just at the trailhead, but the bar district as well.

"I think he was drugged. I think he was over-served. I think he was lured over there," said Melanie Raymond, sister of Julio Santos III who was found dead in Lady Bird Lake in 2022.


The city said they’re working with bar owners on Rainey Street.

"We've heard of instances where patrons have either been over-served, and also, truthfully, sadly, instances of patrons drinks being spiked," Qadri said.

Now, the city said they plan to use about a million dollars to provide long-term safety improvements including a new camera at the trailhead, more lighting, and sidewalks along East Avenue. 

These are set to be installed by summer 2024. The installation of a permanent camera is being expedited, and should be installed by the end of this year.