Hillcrest High Loses Parking as Pump Station Gets Overhaul

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Walcrest Pump Station has been bringing water, water everywhere in Preston Hollow since 1956. To keep doing so safely and keep up with demand, the station is undergoing a massive $36.8 million overhaul.

Construction began in November and is expected to last until fall of 2019. Located at the corner of Hillcrest Road and Walnut Hill Lane, the site will affect traffic and alley access in the area through the end of 2016, according Dallas Water Utilities Department program manager Mark Simon.

“Right now the lanes we have closed are closed primarily for safety reasons because of the number of vehicles,” Simon said. “Our hope is that as we get through the demolition portion of the work and further into the construction, that the traffic will be different… not as continuous.”

Simon and project manager Cassia Sanchez are keeping neighbors updated on lane closures and the progress of the project on Walcrest.org, Twitter, and Facebook.

“We’re really encouraging people to reference those when they have a question or concern, there’s a contact tab on the website that sends an email to myself,” Sanchez said.

Perhaps, the biggest impact on its neighbor Hillcrest High School has been the loss of parking. The school had been leasing the lot where the new pump is being built from the DWU.

“For now, we want folks to park in the lot by the football stadium,” said DISD spokesman Andre Riley.

Some students and visitors are doing just that, but the school is also having issues with people parking in front of houses and wherever they think they won’t get ticketed or towed, a practice the district doesn’t endorse, Riley said.

The issue may be temporary, as Hillcrest is receiving funding from the $1.6 billion bond approved by voters in November to build a new 50-space parking lot. “The conversation now is where,” Riley said.

One solution that had been discussed was turning the existing tennis courts into a parking lot, but Riley said that is now off the table. For now parents and teens will have to continue searching for parking and carefully navigating around the Walcrest traffic. Demo is not set to be complete for nine months, Simon said.

So why did Walcrest need an update? A routine condition assessment by DWU placed the station on a priority list in 2007. The following year, an evaluation showed that the reservoir did not meet current Texas Commission on Environmental Quality standards.

“They’re more structural type standards, nothing that would impact the quality or safety of the water,” Sanchez emphasized.

Code changes include uncovering the reservoir, sloping the roof, and adding overflow capabilities, Simon said. Another change involves constructing a new pump and splitting the current 20-million gallon reservoir box into two 10-gallon boxes. This will allow maintenance on one or the other side to be performed without shutting the whole operation down.

The reservoir provides potable water to 200,000 people living from Midway Road to Plano Road and LBJ Freeway to Northwest Highway. But Walcrest also plays an important role to the whole Dallas water system, Simon said. Its high elevation allows the reservoir to act like a water tower providing pressure to the pipes from downtown to Bachman Lake.

“It’s just really unique in our system that it can function both ways. Most of our ground storage tanks are just ground storage,” Simon said.

According to Simon, neighbors need not worry about their water pressure during the construction. The station can pump up to 85 million gallons per day.

“We have the ability to bring water into that area from several places, [and] the pump station will still be operational, we just won’t have the storage pool,” he said.

The plan is to have the new pump station and one of the two new reservoir pools operational in two-and-a-half years, he said. The pump station will stylistically match Hillcrest, with the same sandy-color brick and red accents, Simon said.

“I think the main thing is to recognize there’s going to be a lot of activity,” he said. “Our primary goal is to keep everyone safe, and get the work done as fast as we can. We know it’s going to have an impact on the neighborhood, but it’ll get done. And I think people are going to be happy with the end result.”

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