The Texas Department of Transportation broke ground on the Oak Hill Parkway project in Southwest Austin on July 1 at a ceremony held at the Austin Community College Pinnacle Campus.

Construction will add lanes to Hwy. 290, remove traffic signals in main lanes, and create flyovers between Hwy. 71 and Hwy. 290. It will also add 15 miles of new paths for bicyclists and pedestrians, according to a TxDOT press release.

“We're going to turn dirt, and we're going to get this project going today,” Texas Transportation Commission Chair J. Bruce Bugg said. “The community out here has waited for 30 years for this very important project.”

He added the project will help improve congestion and safety.

The project has faced significant resistance from the Oak Hill community since its initial environmental review in 1988. Opponents said TxDOT failed to sufficiently take into account the project’s environmental impact and that it does not offer a modern solution to the area’s congestion.

TxDOT said it added multiple elements to the project that address the community’s concerns including new landscaping, tree planting, as well as a stormwater detention pond. In addition to environmental concerns, the project aims to make the section of roadway safer and add capacity in a rapidly growing region.

“I will say that it's probably fallen behind the rapid rate of growth we've seen very recently,” said Jeffery Wittig, fire chief of the Oak Hill Fire Department. ”It's a very good time for us to take this next big step in such a large project. Whether it's a fire or a medical emergency, minutes and seconds really do save lives.”

A study by the Ross Law Group ranked the Austin stretch of Hwy. 290 as the 14th deadliest and the Austin stretch of Hwy. 71 as the 25th deadliest highway in Texas from 2013 to 2015.

TxDOT anticipates construction will be completed in 2025-26. The project will cost $674 million.