Residents express continued concerns over Rainey Street
AUSTIN, Texas - Safety in the Rainey Street District wasn’t on Monday’s Public Safety Committee meeting agenda, but it was the main topic of conservation during public comment.
Many speakers were loved ones or friends of Jason John, who was found in Lady Bird Lake on Feb. 13 after disappearing from Rainey Street earlier that month.
"Since the last time we spoke, once again, another body has been pulled out of Lady Bird Lake," said Josh Gale, a friend and former roommate of Jason John. "I don't know how we can speed this up, to put in the requests, to get these to stop."
While efforts for permanent safety improvements to the trail are underway, temporary lighting and fencing have been installed. However, Monday's speakers said temporary fixes weren’t enough and long-term fixes weren’t happening fast enough.
"There have been limited lights put up, no cameras, no efficient patrolling, limited fencing around the problematic areas of the lake and no new implementations for safe rides," said a Rainey Street bartender that spoke.
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"There was a lot of excitement about the cameras and lighting and fencing that was installed, but when I went by the trail at night, right where Jason would have been last seen, it was still extremely dark," said another friend of Jason John. "I would really advocate for progress over perfection, because the more time that's spent figuring out what the right solution is and analyzing and getting everything in order, is just more time for another life to be lost."
The most recent update on safety efforts came on Thursday, April 20. The city manager shared the status of an "interim pedestrian safety plan" with city councilmembers.
Last week, as part of that plan, a consultant group walked the trail at night and drafted recommendations for permanent improvements.
"It’s absolutely heartbreaking to listen, week after week, to the families who've lost loved ones on Rainey Street," said Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly, who serves as vice chair of the Public Safety Committee. "I know that this is top of mind for Council as well as for the city manager's office, and they are working to ensure that the lighting and the cameras are installed properly and help correct some of the safety-related concerns that are occurring on Rainey Street."
Overtime pay has also been approved for park rangers so that they can increase patrols. City leaders are also considering placing EMS personnel at the Rainey Street trailhead.
Councilmember Zo Qadri, whose district includes Rainey Street, issued a statement to FOX 7 on Thursday, saying:
"I’m incredibly pleased with the speed at which the City of Austin was able to install temporary safety infrastructure near where these tragic drownings have occurred. It’s clear though that we can and must do more, and I expect the resolution I brought forward to Council will yield permanent solutions that maximize the protection of everyone who lives in and visits the Rainey Street District."
Another update is expected by May 8.