An Analysis of How the Texas State Capitol View Corridors Affects the Proposed Monorail Route

 

It has recently come to our attention that City ordinances exist which protect the views of the State Capitol from various points in the City through what is known as 'Capitol View Corridors'. The Project believes in presenting all available facts as accurately as possible. Therefore, we at the Project have performed extensive research to locate and plot the exact locations of these corridors to see how these corridors affect our proposed Monorail route. This is a work in progress. We have almost completed our analysis of the South Congress - East Live Oak Capitol View Corridor and will post data on the other relevant view corridors soon. We ask that any persons who are concerned about our route perform the same level of analysis as we have done.

 

The City Ordinances

 

The city of Austin has a set of ordinances which protect the views of the State Capitol Building from various points within the city. Any proposed construction must not interfere with these views and an application must be filed with the city of Austin to insure that these views are not violated.

 

The application for the capitol view corridor zone height determination may be found here:

 

Capitol View Corridor Zone Height Determination Application

 

This application states that 'Specific ordinance provisions are found in Sections 25-2-161, 25-2-162, 25-2-641, and 25-2-642 and Chapter 25-2 Appendix A of the Land Development Code. The ordinance provides the Capitol View Preservation Height Calculation Formulas used in determining allowable heights within the view corridors and the Capitol Dominance Zone.'

 

These ordinance provisions may be found in the Land Development Code section of the ordinance code which may be found at any local Austin library. We include the relevant sections of the Land Development Code ordinances below, in pdf (Adobe Acrobat) format:


Austin Capitol View Corridors (pdf)

 

There are two different 'regions' defined within the Land Development Code as pertaining to views of the Capitol Building:

1.      A Capitol Dominance (CD) District

2.      A Capitol View Corridor (CVC)

 

Technical information:

The Land development code document defines the CD Districts and the CVC's in terms of Texas Plane Coordinates (TPC's). These TPC's are located in the Central Zone of the Texas State Coordinate Systems as defined by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, dated 1945 and revised in March 1978. The State Plane System was developed in the 1930s and was based on the North American Datum 1927 (NAD27). NAD27 coordinates are measured in feet. The State Plane System 1983 is based on the North American Datum 1983 (NAD83), which is a superior datum based on improved satellite and other measurements and is also based on the meter instead of the foot. Travis County is located in NAD83 state zone number 4203 (see this diagram).

 

For each relevant Capitol View Corridor, the Austin Monorail Project has converted the TPC's defining the corridor into NAD27 geodetics using the State Plane Coordinate conversion calculator located here. Next, NAD27 coordinates were converted into NAD83 coordinates using the North American Datum Conversion (NADCON) conversion calculator located here. Finally, map images based on these NAD83 coordinates were downloaded from the Microsoft TerraServer.

 

Of course, this analysis could be avoided if we could locate an existing map of the Capitol View Corridors. (3/29/02-We have recently located such a map and will update this page with this map of all existing Capitol View Corridors).

 

The Land Development Code Restrictions Pertaining to the Texas State Capitol Views:

 

1. Capitol Dominance District:

 

According to section 25-2-161 which defines the Capitol Dominance District:


(A) The purpose of the Capitol dominance (CD) overlay district is to protect the visual and symbolic significance of the State Capitol by keeping buildings in close proximity to the Capitol from dominating the structure.
(B) The CD overlay district applies to all property in a one-quarter mile radius of the State Capitol dome.

 

Section 25-2-641 defines the restrictions within a 'Capitol Dominance (CD)' combining district as:

 

'The maximum height of a structure is the lesser of:

(1) The base district maximum height; or
(2) a height that coincides with the 653 foot elevation above sea level, plus 0.04366 feet of height for each foot horizontally that the measurement point is separated from the center of the Capitol dome.'

 

The diagram below shows the 1/4 mile radius Capitol Dominance District. The Monorail skirts just within the western edge of this District along Guadalupe.

We will assume that the height above sea-level of Guadalupe along the western edge of the CD district to be the same as that of the ground upon which the Capitol is constructed. According to the UT Austin Tower information guide 09/99, the Capitol building is 311 feet in height, but it is built on an elevation 600 feet above sea level (we will attempt to confirm this elevation with a topographic map).

 

We conservatively estimate that the Monorail along Guadalupe will be no closer than 1/5th of a mile or 1056 away from the center of the Capitol dome. Therefore, the maximum allowable height of the Monorail will be:

 

(653 - 600) + (1056 *  0.04366) = 53 + 46.1 = 99.1 feet

 

It is impossible that the Monorail beam plus vehicle will be taller than a ten story building; indeed, it will hardly reach 1/4 to 1/3rd of this height. Therefore, the Monorail legally meets the Capitol Dominance (CD) District requirements.

 

2. Capitol View Corridors (CVC's):

 

According to section 25-2-162 which defines the Capitol View Corridors:

 

(A) The purpose of the Capitol view corridor (CVC) overlay district is to preserve the view of the State Capitol Building by limiting the height of structures located in the capitol view corridors.
(B) The CVC overlay district applies to all property in the capital view corridors described in Appendix A of this chapter.
 

Section 25-2-642 defines the restrictions within the 'Capitol View Corridors (CVC's) as:

 

(A) In the Capitol view corridor (CVC) combining district, the maximum height permitted is the lesser of.
    (1) the base district maximum height; or
    (2) the maximum height provided in this section.
(B) In a Capitol view corridor, a structure may not exceed the height of the plane delineating the corridor.

 

It appears as if the Monorail will cross or be aligned within a number of Capitol View Corridors. We will analyze each in turn:

 

South Congress at East Live Oak Capitol View Corridor:

 

According to the Austin Capitol View Corridor section of the city ordinance and in accordance with the conversions to NAD27 and NAD83 coordinates that we have performed, the South Congress at East Live Oak Capitol View Corridor is defined by two lines (a) and (b) below:

 

Line: TPC: Geodetic Elevation   TPC: Geodetic
NAD27 NAD83   NAD27 NAD83
(a) X: 2814945.42 97 45 8.563 97 45 9.581 574 feet to 2818459.22 97 44 25.326 97 44 26.346
Y: 218622.48 30 14 30.451 30 14 31.205 230624.51 30 16 28.416 30 16 29.166
                   
(b) X: 2815051.19 97 45 7.350 97 45 8.369 574 feet to 2818651.03 97 44 23.155 97 44 24.174
Y: 218649.13 30 14 30.690 30 14 31.444 230567.5 30 16 27.808 30 16 28.558

 

Endpoint Locations of View Corridor:

 

US Geological Survey Photo of Upper Endpoint of the South-Congress at East Live Oak view corridor at the Texas Capitol. Vertical is skewed towards the lower left in this image.

Image provided courtesy of  Microsoft TerraServer.

  

US Geological Survey Photo of Lower Endpoint of South-Congress at East Live Oak view corridor.

Image provided courtesy of  Microsoft TerraServer.

 

For Monorail to not 'interfere' with this View Corridor, it must be located below 574 feet above sea level. Early data seem to indicate that ground level is roughly at this level. We are currently in the process of examining topographic maps to determine the height above sea level of the intersection of South Congress and East Live Oak. If this height is 574 feet, the Project will consider an alternate route down South First Street then transitioning to South Congress via Oltorf below the south end of the View Corridor.

 

Other View Corridors:

 

Analysis in progress..
 

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Last updated: 06/10/02.