LOOKING FORWARD AND LOOKINGWEST As the Oak Hill Parkway project starts construction, TxDOT is also preparing a planning and feasibility study further west along US 290 from RM 1826 to RM 12 in Dripping Springs. The next step in the process will be a public meeting, and TxDOT says no dates have been set. The state must also identify funding before construction can start.
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NEW A DRIVE THROUGH THE OAK HILL
METCALF BBQ Co-owner Lynn Metcalf has been through two rebrands and thus far outlasted a pandemic. She is condent in the future of her business but knows the road work will be important. “WITH AWELLPLACED EXIT, THIS COULD ACTUALLY BE BETTER FOR US. IT COULD BE AWIN. THATWILL MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, WHETHER OR NOT PEOPLE CAN EASILY GET OFF THE FREEWAY AND COME TO US.” LYNN METCALFCOOWNER, METCALF BBQ
A planned ve-year construction project starting this summer along Hwy. 290 and Hwy. 71 has already caused some changes in the Oak Hill neighborhood it will bisect. While opponents are still ghting against the project and urging the Texas Department of Transportation to rethink its plans, business owners are getting ready for the work to begin.
SOURCES: HEB, TEXAS COMMISSION ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATIONCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
BY JACK FLAGLER Opponents of OakHill Parkwaywill not give up ght even as construction date nears
share concerns are not going to give up the ght. “It’s not over until it’s over. Until they destroy Oak Hill, Oak Hill hasn’t been destroyed,” Wilcox said. Environmental impacts Two ongoing lawsuits, one led by the Save Barton Creek Association and another from the Save Our Springs Alliance, allege the project failed to properly consider its environmental eects. While both lawsuits are ghting the project on specic grounds under federal law, both Richter and Kelly Davis, sta attorney for the Save Our Springs Alliance, said TxDOT could address the legal concerns by modifying the design. Neither plainti led a preliminary injunction in the lawsuits, meaning construction does not have to wait on the nal outcome in the courts. “It’s oversized; it’s too expensive; and it would cause disruption of the Oak Hill community for too long,” Davis said. But according to Astarita, scaling back the project would make it ineective at addressing congestion. “We really can’t build a smaller or less complex project in order to properly address the trac demands. This is the right-sized project,” Astarita said. Opponents of the design say it threatens the Edwards Aquifer and the ecosystem of Williamson
“We are trying to make the improvements in this area that probably should have happened decades ago,” said Christiana Astarita, TxDOT’s project manager for Oak Hill Parkway. The project, funded by state revenue, will create a roadway as wide as 12 lanes near the Y at Oak Hill where SH 71 and Hwy. 290 intersect. TxDOT also will construct yovers at the interchange of those two roads an estimated 25 feet high while excavating the main lanes of Hwy. 290 to approximately 18 feet below grade level to pass beneath the yovers. TxDOT ocials said this project is a result of years of community feedback and compromises. However, opponents of the project say the 12-lane conguration is a relic of the past and out of place in Southwest Austin’s Oak Hill neighborhood. “TxDOT is taking its single blueprint it’s doing all across the state right now, doing it big and plopping it down in Oak Hill,” said Angela Richter, executive director of Save Barton Creek Association. Although workers are already in the area taking soil samples and installing fencing, Oak Hill resident Cynthia Wilcox said she and her neighbors who
Back in the early 1990s, John Dromgoole was worried a highway project could sink his business. Dromgoole opened a small garden store in 1982 and ran it for about 10 years out of the stone building at the intersection of Hwy. 290 and Patton Ranch Road. When he got word the Texas Department of Transportation was thinking of widening the highway, he started looking for a way out. After spotting a for sale sign on Old Bee Caves Road on his drive home, Dromgoole moved the Natural Gardener to the location where it still operates today. Nearly 30 years later, the major construction work that Dromgoole worried would make his garden business “dead in the water” back in 1993 is nally about to start. TxDOT will break ground in June or July on the $674 million Oak Hill Parkway project, which is set to nish in 2026. The project traces its roots back to an environmental impact statement issued in 1988 and, according to TxDOT, addresses congestion for a road that reached its trac capacity back in 1995.
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