As more people move to central Texas, tunnels are now being considered as another transportation option.
AUSTIN, Texas — As more people move to the area, underground tunnels are being mooted for the future of central Texas transportation.
Although this may help with traffic, experts say Austin’s unique geological makeup means there are many environmental factors to consider.
“Edwards is a karst aquifer with preferential flow paths, often along fissures or fractures, that have a linear characteristic,” said Dr. Joe Yelderman, hydrogeologist and chairman of Baylor’s Department of Geosciences.
dr Yelderman said that while we know a lot about the Edwards Aquifer and surrounding areas, there is still much we don’t know that could pose challenges for companies looking to build tunnels for transportation.
“You might come across a cave or river system that you didn’t know about,” explained Dr. Yelderman. “So it’s really difficult to accurately predict the impact before you do it.”
Elon Musk’s The Boring Company is discussing tunneling projects here in central Texas, and the city of Austin’s Project Connect is also planning tunnels for its light rail system.
The Project Connect Orange Line is planned to pass under Lady Bird Lake.
Regarding environmental aspects, Project Connect sent the KVUE a statement stating in part:
“As for the Orange Line, the tunnel will pass approximately 30 to 40 feet below Lady Bird Lake, limiting any impact on the lake. The tunneled portions do not overlie the Edwards Aquifer and no karst Edwards Limestone was encountered during the geotechnical survey. “
You can read the full explanation at the end of this article.
Regarding the potential for The Boring Company’s tunnels, Dr. Robert Mace, the executive director of the Meadows Center at Texas State University, that one thing to note is that the Edwards Aquifer is predominantly on the west side of the city.
“You know, if Elon thinks about a tunnel from the factory to the airport or a factory to a downtown party block, they probably don’t have to worry about the Edwards aquifer,” said Dr. mace
Both experts say these tunnels can be built effectively, but it’s crucial that these environmental factors are thoroughly considered.
“In the Austin area, groundwater flows through these rocks,” Mace said. “So you have to look at any potential contaminants that might be present or that could be exposed to the water.”
Here is the full explanation of Project Connect:
“The Central Texas community is passionate about the environment and sustainable practices, as is the Project Connect team. It is one of our core values of the program. Project Connect aims to bridge initiatives addressing equity, sustainability and innovation by implementing a transit program that includes new rail systems, subway stations, electrification of the transit system and more. In September of last year, CapMetro purchased one of its largest electric vehicle purchases to date, fulfilling another milestone for Project Connect. As for the Orange Line, the tunnel will pass approximately 30 to 40 feet below Lady Bird Lake, limiting any impact on the lake. The tunneled portions do not overlie the Edwards Aquifer and no karst Edwards limestone was encountered during the geotechnical survey. The Orange Line’s environmental benefits and impacts will also be further evaluated as part of the formal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which serves as an additional lens for approval and meets the necessary eligibility requirements to receive federal funding for the project. Protecting and preserving natural resources is a priority for the Project Connect program and implementation of the program will be instrumental in protecting our environment as public transit is one of our community’s primary ways to address climate change and air quality impacts mitigate.”
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