Concept C received solid support. Sixty-two percent of workshop attendees said they agreed that the concept is a good solution to traffic congestion.
by Bobbie Jean Sawyer
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and TxDOT presented nine transportation concepts for the ongoing Oak Hill Parkway project to workshop attendees on Thursday, May 16, at the Oak Hill United Methodist Church, and again last night to the public at an open house event held at Clint Small Middle School.
Wade Strong, a project planner with the Rodriguez Transportation Group, gave attendees an outline of each alternative and addressed questions and concerns.
Strong said the designs were in the beginning stages and will be altered as the process continues.
“These are concepts. They’re not fully engineered designs,” Strong said. “We used our best judgement based on experience.”
Strong said community feedback gathered from past workshops and open house meetings played an important role in designing and developing design alternatives.
“Comments that you all made have been very, very helpful to our team in determining what’s important to this community. We know you want a solution to the congestion but you want in done in a very sensible and responsible way,” Strong said. “As we develop the project further and develop alternatives we’ll keep these things in mind.”
The No-Build Alternative would depend on the in-progress continuous flow intersections to alleviate congestion, Strong said.
“It’s kind of a misnomer. It’s not really a no-build. It’s the condition that 290 and 71 would be in when we start our project. There’s already been improved plans to do intersection improvements along 290 and 71. So this construction has already started and adjustments have begun,” Strong said. “Part of the environmental process is we have to evaluate the No-Build condition against the other alternatives.”
Strong said while the interim improvements will provide much needed relief, further construction will likely be needed.
“It’s going to be better than what it is now but I think there’s still going to be congestion,” Strong said. “It’s not going to solve the entire problem.”
The 2007 Alternative was a plan originally proposed by TxDOT. The design, which included a three-level interchange with direct connectors at a 50 feet elevation, was met with apprehension by many in the community, most notably Fix 290, a grassroots community organization supporting a solution with a less height and a lower concrete footprint.
What does it offer?
- A conventional tollway with frontage roads and direct connectors at the ‘Y’
Concept A: U.S. 290 Depressed Mainlanes
What it offers:
- Conventional controlled access highway with frontage roads
- Westbound U.S. 290 frontage road west of William Cannon on the north side of Williamson Creek
- Depressed U.S. 290 mainlanes under highway 71
- direct connectors at the ‘Y’
- single-point flying-T intersection for the frontage roads at the Y
Strong said Concept A favors a lower level interchange.
“A lot of comments that we heard from the community was that you didn’t want a big flyover high facility from a visual standpoint,” Strong said. “We really looked for ways to bring the elevation of this interchange down. I think this is a good way to do it.”
Limited environmental impact is a main factor in developing the concept, Strong said.
“We very much want to protect the creek and the trees that are around it and we look for ways to construct this frontage road and 290 mainlanes without disturbing that,” Strong said.
Concept B: U.S. 290 Mainlanes north of the creek without direct connectors
What it offers:
- Conventional controlled-access highway with frontage roads
- U.S. 290 mainlanes west of William Cannon on the north side of Williamson Creek
- U.S. 290 frontage roads between William Cannon and the ‘Y’ along existing U.S. 290
- Continuous flow intersection at William Cannon and U.S. 290 would remain
- No direct connectors at the ‘Y’
- Single-point flying-T intersection for the frontage roads at the Y
Concept C: U.S. 290 Mainlanes north of creek with direct connectors
What it offers:
- Same design as Concept B with the exception of direct connectors being added to the ‘Y’
“In effect what we have here is still a two level interchange. We have the ground level frontage roads, the mainlanes one level up—25 feet from the ground,” Strong said. “This is another way of keeping the interchange as low as possible but maximizing the use of direct connectors.”
Concept D: U.S. 290 Express lanes with frontage roads
What it offers:
- Two lanes each direction in the center of controlled-access facility
- Express lanes extend from Mopac to the west end of the project with access limited to each end and possibly one other location for special use, such as access for CapMetro’s new park-and-ride, ACC, and Seton Southwest Hospital in the vicinity of 1826 and Convict Hill Road.
- Grade separated express lanes
- Single-point flying-T intersection for the frontage roads at the ‘Y’
Strong said the distinguishing factor of Concept D is separating out-of-area commuters from local traffic.
“The concept here is to handle the traffic that’s coming from way out west,” Strong said. ”We get them through the Oak Hill community as quickly as possible with very little or no opportunity to get off and go to the Starbucks or anything like that. They’re just going to zip through.”
Strong said the design would include few entrance and exit ramps to maximize efficiency and get traffic through quickly.
“The thought here is that this would have a smaller concrete footprint,” Strong said.
Concept E1: Minimum Improvements
What it offers:
- U.S. 290 grade separations at William Cannon Drive and 71
“This came from comments from you all,” Strong said. “What if you just made some improvements on William Cannon and the ‘Y’, without doing flyovers and overpasses?”
Concept E2: Minimum Improvements
Similar to E1, the project would connect to 290 about halfway between William Cannon and the Y. The design is two lanes in each direction going underneath the William Cannon bridge.
Option 1: Extend west transition past Circle Drive
This concept can be included with Concepts A through E. Mainlanes would go under Circle Drive and continue on. Frontage roads and mainlanes would tie together about a half mile west of Circle Drive.
Following the presentation, attendees voted on each concept. Concept C received overwhelming support. Out of 31 voters, 62 percent said they agreed that the concept is a good solution to traffic congestion.
The No-Build Alternative and 2007 TxDOT Plan were among the least supported plans. 45 percent said they strongly disagree that the No-Build concept is a good solution, while 58 percent strongly disagreed that the 2007 Alternative is a good solution.
Forty-five percent of voters strongly disagreed with Concept D’s express lane design, while 53 percent of voters disagreed with building U.S. 290 mainlanes north of the creek without direct connectors, as outlined in Concept B.
Concept A, featuring depressed 290 mainlanes, garnered more support; 45 percent said they agreed that the design would be a good solution to traffic congestion.
The E1 and E2 Concepts were the least supported, receiving 61 percent and 77 percent disapproval, respectively.
Half of the voters said that Option 1 was an efficient temporary solution.
Voters indicated support for the Oak Hill Parkway project overall. Eighty-seven percent of voters said they agreed that the project is going in the right direction.
Beki Halpin, a member of Fix 290, said though it wasn’t the most popular concept, she supports Concept B.
“It had more of a boulevard feel to it,” Halpin said. “I thought it would save money and it was only two levels tall at the Y. It doesn’t disturb traffic as much to build because a lot of the current roadway would stay on the ground.”
Halpin said the environmental impact of the project remains one of her greatest concerns.
“I really feel like the soul of Oak Hill is in the creek and the trees and the environment, not just aesthetically but also from the standpoint of water quality. Hopefully we’ll still have aesthetics and we’ll have better water quality,” Halpin said. “I would really like to see that beautiful creek environment maintained for people who come after us.”
Diana Goodloe, a seven-year resident of Oak Hill, said she preferred Concept C.
“It combines getting out-of-area traffic through with providing good access for local traffic,” Goodloe said.
Goodloe said she was grateful for the chance to view the designs, ask questions and listen to fellow residents.
“I think people are really coming together—a meeting of the minds so to speak,” Goodloe said. “People are able to come around and say this is what we support. It’s good to have the opportunity.”
Goodloe said she hopes to see a solution determined within the next five years.
“I would like to see a concept selected and acted upon,” Goodloe said. ”It’s been a long time coming and in the mean time the traffic and problems associated with it have been building.”
Mobility Authority staff will continue gathering surveys and comment forms at Thursday’s open house. Comments can also be submitted at OakHillParkway.com.
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