The tragic accidental drowning death of 13-year-old Ayanna Austin in May 2015, who slipped into a creek filled with rapid-moving floodwater that flows behind Lufkin Middle School, may not happen on another part of Denman Avenue.
Lufkin City Engineer Chuck Walker said that type drowning won't be a concern for a stretch of Denman from Conn Avenue east to Timberland Drive.
“At least this ditch area here will be enclosed so that's all done away with,” said Chuck Walker, Public Utilities Director and City Engineer.
A federal grant from Hurricane Ike disaster recovery is funding the $600,000 ditch-conversion construction.
"The overall plan is to come in and install the different box culverts--two different size box culverts they're going to put in. And then they're going to come in and put in sidewalks," Walker explained.
Installing the sidewalks ends the likelihood of a middle schooler or a vehicle landing in a ditch that's up to 6 feet deep. For those who attended the former Lufkin Junior High West or attended Lufkin High School, while it was located at the present home of the middle school, they are very familiar with the lack of sidewalks and having to walk along a 3-foot-wide grassy path between the asphalt-paved Denman and the deep ditch falloffs.
The construction crews are currently installing those concrete culverts at Finley Avenue. This is also the border of a huge shopping center. Walker said businesses in this shopping center will also benefit from the new storm drainage project.
“Every time it rains they're losing a part of their parking lot. So, it's actually going to help them, it's going to recoup a lot of their parking lot at the same time,” Walker said. “It's a win-win situation for kids, drivers and property owners."
The project should be complete in a few months.