Judge denies effort to stop Oak Hill Parkway construction

The court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop construction of the Oak Hill Parkway on Sept. 13. (Courtesy Falcon Sky Photography)
The court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop construction of the Oak Hill Parkway on Sept. 13. (Courtesy Falcon Sky Photography)

The court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop construction of the Oak Hill Parkway on Sept. 13. (Courtesy Falcon Sky Photography)

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas denied a motion to halt the construction of the Oak Hill Parkway in Southwest Austin Sept. 13.

The case hinged on the argument that the Texas Department of Transportation had not adequately considered the environmental ramifications of the project and thus violated the National Environmental Policy Act. Specifically, the plaintiffs said that the environmental impact statement did not account for the concrete batch plant, which TxDOT would build to facilitate freeway construction.

However, Judge Robert Pitman found in his ruling that the state transportation agency had provided sufficient detail around the construction’s environmental impact.

“Plaintiffs may well be right that a parkway design would be better for the Y at Oak Hill. Plaintiffs may also be right that six lanes of frontage roads are not necessary for the project. However, this court is not sitting in judgment over TxDOT’s determinations. The court reviews the procedures TxDOT followed in reaching its determinations. Having done so, the court finds that TxDOT did not violate the applicable statutes' procedural requirements," Pitman wrote in his conclusion.

During a Sept. 2 hearing, Lisa Mitchell, the state’s lead attorney on the case, said that TxDOT cannot evaluate the environmental impact of every alternative.

“[The plaintiffs] want the parkway alternative, and that’s just not what happened here,” Mitchell said.

The plaintiffs, represented by Save our Springs staff attorney Kelly Davis, said that TxDOT had not given sufficient consideration to alternative designs.

"In addition to environmental impacts, an agency must look at a range of reasonable alternatives," Davis said during the hearing. "Our argument is that TxDOT failed to consider a range of reasonable alternatives."

The plaintiffs said they will continue to find ways to oppose TxDOT's Oak Hill Parkway plan.

“While we’re disappointed with the judge’s ruling, we will continue to press TxDOT to revise its plans,” said Brian Zabcik, a Save Barton Creek Association representative and plaintiff in the suit. “The proposed highway remains too big, too expensive, and too destructive for the community and the environment. We will be working with other authorities to convince TxDOT to build a highway that’s a more appropriate size for Oak Hill.”

TxDOT had voluntarily halted the clearing of trees and brush July 30 prior to the Sept. 2 hearing and extended the pause for 10 additional days to allow the court to determine its ruling.

TxDOT will now resume tree clearing in the coming days, said Brad Wheelis, a public information officer with TxDOT. Community Impact Newspaper previously reported that TxDOT remained on schedule despite stopping the clearing of trees and brush.

The $674 million project broke ground in July and will add a 12-lane freeway through the Y in Southwest Austin. According to the timeline on the TxDOT website, Oak Hill Parkway will open to traffic in 2026.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include comments from Save Barton Creek Association representatives, details about TxDOT resuming tree clearing and to provide a date for the ruling.
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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