Two projects, no-build option considered for Y at Oak Hill

Southwest Austin residents learned about proposed projects to alleviate traffic congestion at the Y at Oak Hill intersection as part of an Oak Hill Parkway environmental study open house Jan. 20 at Covington Middle School. Southwest Austin residents learned about proposed projects to alleviate traffic congestion at the Y at Oak Hill intersection as part of an Oak Hill Parkway environmental study open house Jan. 20 at Covington Middle School.[/caption]

Southwest Austin residents scrutinized plans for the latest two proposed projects to alleviate traffic congestion at the Y at Oak Hill intersection, where Hwy. 290 meets Hwy. 71, as part of an Oak Hill Parkway open house Jan. 20.

Launched in October 2012, the Oak Hill Parkway environmental study aims to identify a long-term traffic solution for the area. The project team originally developed about 10 project proposals, which have been refined and narrowed down based on public comment and analysis, Project Manager Wade Strong said. The study is now in the Context Sensitive Solutions stage.

"It has taken a couple of years to get to this point, but we have involved the public very, very heavily," he said.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and the Texas Department of Transportation, which are working together on the study, presented two projects—Alternative A and Alternative C—as well as a no-build option. The team will likely hold a final public hearing in 2016, recommend one of the two projects and present findings later the same year, Strong said.

Bob and Pat Gray have lived in the Hillside Springs neighborhood—near local business Thirsty Planet—since 1984, Pat said. They have participated in the Oak Hill Parkway public comment process and seen several other proposed ideas for the intersection.

"Which one will be done the fastest?" Bob asked.

"We're tired of waiting," Pat said.

Bob said after viewing both of the concepts he supported Alternative A. Since the open house the Mobility Authority held in June, the project team updated the connection for Old Bee Caves Road to the westbound Hwy. 290 frontage road and plans to maintain the signalized intersection at the Hwy. 71 frontage road near the McDonald's.

"[Alternative A] just seems faster," he said. "Every time you drive through the Y, you dread it because what should be a 15-minute drive from my house is about 30 minutes."

The project team also made changes to Alternative C plans, adding a new eastbound Hwy. 290 frontage road location east of William Cannon Drive and eliminating plans to connect Patton Ranch Road and McCarty Lane.

Moreland Properties Realtor Renee Huggans, who lives in the Aviara neighborhood, has sold properties in the Southwest Austin area for the past 15 years and said she opposes Alternative C.

"I am afraid that not only is it inconvenient, but it's going to be so inconvenient that when people look at homes they're not going to even want to look off of Old Bee Caves Road," she said.

Mother of three JC Sanders said she would like to see lighter traffic while getting her two youngest children to Patton Elementary School and daycare.

"The William Cannon light is what kills me every day," she said.

For Alternative A and Alternative C, the project team reconfigured the intersection of Hwy. 290 with William Cannon Drive to reduce signal wait time.

"Helping the Y would be great as well," Sanders said. "I like that it goes out past Scenic Brook; I was kind of wondering if they were just going to stop [work] right at the Y and so I'm glad to see that they're expanding it further down the road."

Through an online CSS survey, the community identified pedestrian and bicycle access, environmental sustainability and signage as top priorities for the project, according to the Mobility Authority. Residents can provide input online as part of a virtual open house at www.oakhillparkway.com through Jan. 31.