After a few weeks of steady decline, the number of new coronavirus cases in Travis County is hitting a troublesome plateau, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Tuesday.
"This makes us concerned that we are no longer headed in a good direction, that we are flattening out" rather than improving, Escott told the Travis County Commissioners Court. "Particularly because we are about 30 days from the start of in-person schooling, we have to do better."
Nevertheless, Escott said, the various statistics Austin Public Health uses to track the spread of coronavirus in the region show that Travis County has entered Stage 3 territory, potentially giving way to less stringent public-health restrictions in the coming weeks.
But Escott said he is not ready to make that call, which would expand the number and type of businesses considered safe to be open.
For officials to be comfortable downgrading the county to Stage 3 restrictions, Escott said they would need two weeks' worth of numbers supporting that level.
"We've seen over and over again, across the country and across the globe, that when communities relax too soon, it results in a bounce of cases and a repeat surge," Escott said.
Better news, he said, is that ICU and hospital-bed usage in Austin are still down, and the city has more than enough ventilators to handle a large surge in cases.
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Designs for stations along Project Connect’s Blue Line were presented this week, giving a detailed look at what part of the rail system extending from downtown to the airport could look like.
The planned stations that have gotten the latest focus include Waterfront, Travis Heights and Lakeshore stations past Lady Bird Lake.
At the Waterfront station, the preliminary design aims to prevent visual obstructions and save on costs. This is accomplished by a transit guideway that will lower from the bridge to a level station.
Heading onto East Riverside Drive, the light rail faces a curve requiring a slow down to about 10 miles per hour.
The Travis Heights station could involve relocating a pedestrian crosswalk zone at Alameda Drive to Blunn Creek. Since light rails can't effectively operate on a steep grade, this allows the transit guideway to avoid that.
From there, the rail will extend to the Norwood Park area, and though it will reach along the right-of-way zone, the park will be able to remain open.
A view of the Blue Line by Lady Bird Lake. (Project Connect)
The line involves some coordination with the Texas Department of Transportation. That's because the department is working on an intersection that will have to be built before the phasing of the section of the Blue Line involving an I-35 crossing.
When it comes to the safety of cyclists and walkers, design ideas include a pedestrian hybrid beacon by East Bouldin Creek that would provide a protected signal to cross. And for the intersection TxDOT is carrying out, Project Connect is working with them on pedestrian access across the intersection. It could involve shared use paths along the street and crossings beneath it.
This summer, the public can expect 30% of design and cost estimates to be released. Though the project was $7.1 billion when voters approved it in November 2020, the latest estimates factoring in inflation and supply chain constraints show it could ultimately be upwards of $10 billion.
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Plans for an Amazon warehouse in Round Rock—a $250 million project slated to be a large distribution center—are on hold.
This comes just after the tech giant had its worst financial quarter in seven years.
- Late last year, it announced an expansion at the Domain adding 2,000 more corporate and tech jobs.
- Amazon still owns the site in Round Rock. Plans for it are unclear.
- Early this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is aiming to scrap warehouse space as it faces a slowdown in its e-commerce operations.
Part of that effort involves exploring the possibility of ending or renegotiating leases with outside warehouse owners. Another aspect is a plan to sublease warehouse space.
“It allows us to relieve the financial obligations associated with an existing building that no longer meets our needs,” an Amazon spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal. “Subleasing is something many established corporations do to help manage their real estate portfolio.”
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