TxDOT temporarily halts removal of trees, but Oak Hill Parkway construction continues

TxDOT will stop removing trees as a part of the Oak Hill Parkway project until the injunction hearing Sept. 2. (Courtesy Falcon Sky Photography)
TxDOT will stop removing trees as a part of the Oak Hill Parkway project until the injunction hearing Sept. 2. (Courtesy Falcon Sky Photography)

TxDOT will stop removing trees as a part of the Oak Hill Parkway project until the injunction hearing Sept. 2. (Courtesy Falcon Sky Photography)

The Texas Department of Transportation has temporarily halted the removal of trees as a part of its Oak Hill Parkway construction in Southwest Austin.

In a notice to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas court July 30, TxDOT said that it had “voluntarily and specifically instructed its contractor, Colorado River Constructors, to immediately stop work on tree and brush clearing along the entirety of the project limits until the preliminary injunction hearing and hearing on the merits is conducted on Sept. 2, 2021.”

According to a TxDOT spokesperson, construction on the $674 million project remains on schedule.

The project will add lanes and build new flyovers at the junction of Hwy. 290 and Hwy. 71, known as the Y.

Opponents of the project hailed the temporary pause as a small victory.

“It is a window of hope,” said Karon Rilling, a member of the Oak Hill Neighbors’ leadership team.

The Oak Hill Parkway project has faced community opposition since it was first broached more than 30 years ago.

In response to the concerns of community members, TxDOT produced a report within its environmental impact statement outlining the impact of the project on trees—something that it does not typically do. The transportation agency identified 281 out of 518 trees with a diameter at breast height of greater than 10 inches that would need to be removed.

The study also determined that several iconic trees would not be removed, including the "Beckett Grove Tree,” “Grandmother Oak,” “Grandfather Oak” and “the Nieces.”

TxDOT broke ground on the project July 1, and opponents quickly took to the courts to stymie any further construction.

A coalition of opponents, led by groups such as Save Barton Creek Association and the Oak Hill Neighbors, filed an injunction to stop construction on environmental grounds. In addition to the trees, the group has voiced concerns about the removal of limestone.

The hearing on the injunction to stop construction is scheduled for Sept. 2. Rilling said she is “cautiously optimistic.”

“We will go in quite well-prepared. We will go in with the facts that justify our position,” Rilling said. “The judge has shown himself to be very fair-minded and taking the time to understand all the perspectives.”

By Benton Graham

Metro Reporter, Austin

Benton joined Community Impact Newspaper as a metro reporter covering transportation in Central Texas in June 2021. Benton's writing has appeared in Vox, The Austin Chronicle, Austonia and Reporting Texas. Originally from Minneapolis, Benton graduated from William & Mary and eventually moved to Austin in 2018.


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