Early in my construction career I was involved in a project in west Austin, on West 5th St. That project is seared in my memory, even though it happened almost 50 years ago, around 1973. We were relocating a bunch of utilities lines, that needed to be moved so MoPac could be constructed. There were many things that happened during the course of that project. They aren’t that important at this moment.
Several years and a million miles later, we did a second project in the same area of Austin. That project was providing drainage for a new building, a bank being built near W. 5th Street and MoPac. This was along about 1986. Probably the strangest thing we did was laid a couple of large pipes, I think they were 60” diameter concrete pipes that went underneath the deck at the El Arroyo Restaurant and Bar. For the first 10 years, when sitting on the deck, you were actually straddling a drainage ditch. I’m not sure who thought that was a good idea. That is the place that has given Austinites and people from all around laughs with their catchy, often off colored sayings on the sign out along 5th & Campbell St.
The pipe we installed covered up the drainage ditch then went along 5th Street to the next block east, which was West Lynn Street. I was very familiar with that intersection. That’s where the project we did in the 70s centered around.
A new LandRover Dealership was built in the mid 1990s, and we got the contract to do the utilities, built the building pad and parking lot, right in that same area. During three decades, to end up on the same block seems unusual.
What is even more unusual was how I’ve wanted to not ever think about that part of West 5th Street, for the past 30 years.
Austin was subjected to one of the most heinous crimes in memory and it started right there. For whatever reason I knew in the back of my mind that a car wash at that location was where the young lady, Colleen Reed was abducted. While I have always been very curious, when it came to that abduction and murder, I never wanted to connect it to a place I spent so much time at and near. Any time I’ve driven down that street going into the downtown area, I think I always look away.
The LandRover Project came after the abduction, but before her remains were found. Not knowing for sure the true location of her abduction made it easier to go to that project.
For the past couple of evenings I’ve watched a 5 part episode on the murders committed by the psychopath, Kenneth Allen McDuff. During watching that, it showed over and over the car wash at 5th and West Lynn. There was no blocking it out of my mind any longer. But I doubt that I’ll ever look to that side of the street when traveling that way.