A 12-lane highway project in Southwest Austin passed another hurdle Jan. 14 , moving one step closer toward construction.
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization policy board, which comprises area elected officials, unanimously approved adding the Oak Hill Parkway project to its 2019-22 Transportation Improvement Program. This plan outlines which projects will start construction in that four-year timeframe.
Of the 17 residents who addressed the board Monday night, eight spoke in favor of the project and nine opposed it for a variety of reasons, including the scale and impact on the environment.
Newly elected state Rep. Vikki Goodwin, who lives in Shady Hollow, said she would love to see the project be completed sooner. Construction could begin in 2020 at the earliest.
Other residents said they support the project because it would increase the accessibility and ease of getting around the Y at Oak Hill area.
“I no longer care to shop or do business in the Y at Oak Hill. It’s 1 mile from my house,” said David Sherby, a resident of Granada Hills who also supports the project. “It’s easier for me to go 4 miles in another direction to do business there. Not only is traffic a mess, but it’s impacting local businesses.”
Hays County Commissioner Walt Smith told the board he supports the project because “this project means prosperity to my county,” adding thousands of county residents are affected by delays in this area.
The contentious project has also drawn opposition. In December, several residents approached the CAMPO board with their own plan called Livable Oak Hill that would have a smaller footprint, present fewer environmental issues and save more than 280 protected, heritage and legacy trees.
At the Jan. 14 meeting, many of those residents reiterated their concerns, including Angela Richter, executive director of Save Barton Creek Association. She said she worries how the scale of the project will affect Barton Springs, citing an example where the city closed Barton Spring pool last month after waters became cloudy from drilling of a nearby well.
“What effect will digging out an Astrodome’s worth of dirt have on the springs? I don’t want to find out,” she said.
Residents who support the Livable Oak Hill proposal want to see a project that occupies a smaller footprint and urged the CAMPO board to reconsider voting on Oak Hill Parkway until CAMPO can vet the new proposal.
“It’s not an either/or between solving our traffic problems and preserving the Oak Hill community and environment,” Richter said.