Features of the LJA team’s winning Green Mobility proposal (above) included a regional park at the current HEB center site, a separate “Oak Hill Parkway” to serve a town center and the Austin Community College, and the relocation of Williamson Creek to allow U.S. 290 West to be widened at grade level. These are ideas that could be used in a long term mobility solution for the ‘Y’ area, according to CTRMA officials.
by Bobbie Jean Sawyer
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA) will host a workshop to develop a list of possible names for a potential redesign of the ‘Y’ intersection. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, August 29, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at ACC Pinnacle Campus in the 10th floor meeting room.
Steve Pustelnyk, director of communications for CTRMA, said the forum is the first step in branding the mobility project to reflect the values of the Oak Hill community and will give officials the opportunity to learn about what’s really important to Oak Hill residents.
“That’s the primary objective at this point, to enlighten some of the team members about folks’ views on the community,” Pustelnyk said. “This is purely an exercise for us to better understand the community’s vision for the future and how that can best be represented with a name for the project and a name for the study process.”
CTRMA has invited community members who have been actively involved in mobility discussions previously, Pustelnyk said.
Pustelnyk said he anticipates between 20 and 60 citizens in attendance.
Pustelnyk said the workshop would consist of a brainstorming session on possible names for the ‘Y’ project by determining words that describe Oak Hill and reflect its character. Attendants will then be broken into groups, at which time they’ll be asked to discuss potential names for the project and narrow down their top choices. Community members will then have the opportunity to vote for their favorite name in an online poll to be hosted by the Gazette online edition: www.oakhillgazette.com.
“It’s really meant to be a smaller exercise. If anyone is interested in participating in the selection of the name they will have the opportunity after this meeting through the voting process,” Pustelnyk said. “Just because you can’t make it to this meeting doesn’t mean you can’t be engaged on this project.”
Pustelnyk said community involvement would only increase as the Environmental Impact Statement, a study of all possible environmental and sociological effects of the project, gets underway later this fall.
“We’re taking this slow and methodically. We don’t want to jump ahead. We don’t want to come to conclusions too early in the process,” Pustelnyk said. “This is going to be a 3 to 5 year process. We’re going to have a tremendous amount of opportunity for everyone to weigh in on all elements of the project.”
Aan Coleman, board member of the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods (OHAN) and president and founding partner of the landscape architecture firm Coleman and Associates, has been a leading voice in the ongoing ‘Y’ intersection debate.
Coleman, a member of the winning design team in the TxDOT and CTRMA-sponsored Green Mobility Challenge, which sought eco-friendly solutions to Oak Hill’s congested traffic, said she hopes the forum revives momentum for the project.
“I’m hoping through the naming process that the community will start to identify with the name as an opportunity to take ownership of it and make it real and maybe even get excitement going,” Coleman said.
Pustelnyk said that while the need and purpose for a mobility solution at the ‘Y’ won’t be addressed until the development of the Environmental Impact Statement, the brainstorming session to brand the project will be beneficial to both state officials and Oak Hill residents.
“It’s important because we want it to reflect a generally community wide view of Oak Hill,” Pustelnyk said. “The words alone do not necessarily have to reflect mobility. It’s really more about reflecting Oak Hill. There might be a mobility element built in but it doesn’t necessarily have to reflect a roadway or a toll road or an expressway. It’s really more about expressing a vision of the community that mobility will then be a part of.”
The environmental study will begin in October. In November, CTRMA will host an open house, encouraging community members to come forward with their own design solutions.
Coleman’s Green Mobility Challenge proposal included the development of a pedestrian and cyclist-friendly parkway connector that provides residents with easy access to local businesses and allows commuter traffic to bypass a projected town center area near the ‘Y’ altogether.
Coleman said while the ‘Y’ remains a contentious subject in Oak Hill, residents understand the need to work together to develop a solution.
“There’s never going to be total consensus,” Coleman said. “But I think there is a group of solid, hard-working, vigilant group of people who know that if we don’t do something, Oak Hill is going to become a major interchange and not a community.”
Coleman said the redesign of the ‘Y’ has inspired such passionate discourse because of what Oak Hill means to those who’ve built their lives here and long to see a return to the community they once knew.
“It’s not a city. It’s not a town. It’s just a place, mainly in people’s hearts and minds and we’ve got to decide whether we’re ready to fight for that or just let it go to the history books,” Coleman said. “Most of the people new to the Oak Hill area don’t even know why we’re hanging on to it so solidly, I think. There’s two segments of people: those who remember how vital it was and want to see it recreated and those that understand that it is a core urban intersection.”
Coleman said the project is an opportunity to be a beacon to other communities.
“We could use this project,” Coleman said. “We could tell the nation: ‘This is a way to do it. This is a way to give rebirth, give new meaning to a city, make it people-friendly, make it environmentally sound and move people and cars.’”
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