Residents review new Y at Oak Hill long-term improvement concepts

Mobility Authority, TxDOT seek public input on preliminary ideas

On May 23, some Oak Hill community members caught their first glimpse of the proposed design concepts for the Oak Hill Parkway, an environmental study that will investigate potential effects of possible transportation projects at the intersection of West Hwy. 290 and Hwy. 71.

During an open house at Clint Small Middle School, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and Texas Department of Transportation publicly unveiled the concepts, which range from building new intersections and flyovers to leaving the roadways untouched.

Residents asked questions including where drivers might merge into traffic using the proposed structures and how the concepts might affect their daily commute and the local business community.

The Mobility Authority and TxDOT developed the ideas based on feedback received during months of community engagement, according to Melissa Hurst, Mobility Authority community outreach manager. Hurst said the team will consider all comments as it continues to develop the concepts.

"We might be able to eliminate some [concepts] now in terms of how they fit into our purpose and need and into our public input," she said.

Some of the concepts combine similar ideas, said Wade Strong, project manager with the Austin-based consulting firm Rodriguez Transportation Group Inc.

"A lot of people are saying they want not a big, huge freeway but a smaller-scale parkway," he said. "And so we developed this—actually, [concepts] B, C and D all kind of have a parkway element to [them] that runs right along the existing [Hwy.] 290."

The eight concepts being considered include a "No Build" concept, which would not involve any further construction after TxDOT's interim improvements at the Y are completed. In addition, Option 1 can be applied to Concepts A–D. In Option 1, main lanes of Hwy. 290 would go beneath its intersection with Circle Drive, which would be built into a bridge over the roadway.

Residents' feedback

Oak Hill resident Theresa Moran attended the open house and said one of her concerns is maintaining neighborhood integrity by preserving oak trees and Williamson Creek. She said she likes that the concepts include accessible entrances to local businesses but dislikes that the Mobility Authority has not yet identified construction funding sources. She said she is uneasy about the prospect of tolls.

"I'm really concerned about the Y," she said. "I don't want to have to pay every time I come out of my neighborhood."

Angela Armitage, a seven-year Oak Hill resident, said she was interested in the concepts that would turn William Cannon Drive into a bridge over Hwy. 290.

"That would fix most of the problem for people coming south on [Hwy.] 71 as well as coming east and west on [Hwy.] 290. I think my own preference is that they do that first and see how it goes," Armitage said. "It could be a relatively inexpensive fix, at least for the next number of years, and be the least disruptive to traffic."

Resident Andrew Hartwell said while he appreciates the efforts to gather input, he doubts the efficiency of the process overall.

"We're looking at nothing potentially being done for at least three years. I'm just thinking, 'Why hasn't this process ever resulted in a conclusion before now?' Everybody I know says it's been an obvious problem for more than 20 years," he said.

Another public open house will likely be held in the fall, Hurst said.