City begins public input process for Austin Avenue Bridges Project The city’s Austin Avenue Bridges Project public input process will help determine how to proceed with addressing issues on the two structures.[/caption]

More than 100 people attended the city of Georgetown’s first public meeting for the Austin Avenue Bridges Project on March 31 at the library.

The meeting was the first of four that will be held throughout the spring and summer as the city works to determine how to address the community’s vision for the two bridges that span the North and South San Gabriel rivers.

Arin Gray, president of Concept Development & Planning, who is working with the city on the project, said the meeting was designed to introduce and share information about the project as well as gather input from residents.

The project’s goals are to ensure pedestrian and driver safety, remove load-bearing restrictions on the bridges, increase access to downtown and the trails, and provide a gateway to Georgetown while creating a cost-effective solution and minimizing adverse impacts to the environment and Georgetown citizens, according to city officials.

In 2014 the Texas Department of Transportation placed load-bearing limits on the bridges after structural deficiencies were found during an inspection in December 2013. Problems included asphalt cracking, rusting and crumbling portions of concrete, according to a report by engineering firm Aguirre & Fields.

A 2015 TxDOT inspection had the same findings, Georgetown Project Manager Nat Waggoner said.

In January, City Council approved a contract with Aguirre & Fields to conduct public input meetings, environmental services and complete preliminary design alternatives.

Waggoner said the need for repairs on the bridges presents an opportunity for the city to address other possible improvements.

“We know that there is a desire expressed from some of the community to do improvements to the bridges like pedestrian and bicycle [upgrades], but because of the historic nature of the bridges and the environment which they are in, we have to follow the environmental process to do anything to the bridges,” he said.

He said the city will use community input to evaluate alternatives, including repairing or replacing the structures or determining additional improvements and alignments, complete environmental clearance to determine what can be done to the bridges, and design the improvements or repairs.

Downtown business owners said total replacement could affect their businesses by limiting access to downtown.

“We have been very concerned about changes being discussed,” business owner Patti Colbert said.

Public comment is also being accepted online. Residents can participate in a survey at until April 22.

A recommendation of a proposed solution could be presented to City Council this fall or winter.