TxDOT presents preferred alternative for SH-45 SW—residents react

August 9, 2014   // 0 Comments

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 Supporters and opponents of State Highway 45 Southwest shared thoughts on the roadway and the draft Environmental Impact Statement during an open house hosted by TxDOT and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority on July 29th. 

by Bobbie Jean Sawyer

TxDOT has unveiled the preferred alternative for State Highway 45 Southwest, a proposed 3.6-mile roadway stretching from Mopac to FM 1626. If approved, the chosen alternative would consist of four 12-foot travel lanes, a 10-foot wide outside shoulder, a four-foot inside shoulder and a 10-foot shared-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Supporters and opponents of State Highway 45 Southwest shared thoughts on the roadway and the draft Environmental Impact Statement during an open house hosted by TxDOT and the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority on July 29th.

Mark Jones, Hays County Commissioner for Precinct 2, said he’s eager to see the long awaited road constructed and he’s confident that the road will be built in accordance with Austin’s environmental standards.

“I think it’s a shame that it takes 26 years to build a road that the majority of the people that live in that area have wanted for so long,” Jones said. “This will be the most environmentally sound road in the state.”

If constructed, SH 45 SW will be built over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Water quality measures would include early installation of permanent water quality features, filtered construction runoff and prevention of natural drainage from mixing with construction runoff. An independent environmental compliance manager will also be on-site.

But Austin City Council member Laura Morrison said it’s too early to know the full effect the road’s construction would have on the environmentally sensitive Edward Aquifer recharge zone.

“The environmental impact of SH-45 really cannot be assessed when there’s missing critical scientific information. The (Environmental Impact Statement) is premature without the currently underway city of Austin drip study of the Flint Wood cave subsurface drainage basin and the survey of karst features,” Morrison said. “It’s imperative that the environmental impact be based on valid, scientific and engineering data. I agree with our city manager, who recently wrote a letter to TxDOT urging TxDOT to withdraw and then reissue based on adequate science.”

Clay Huckaby, fire chief with the Buda Fire Department, said the construction of SH 45 SW would help improve response times of emergency vehicles traveling from Hays County to Austin area hospitals. Huckaby said patients from Hays County are often transported to Austin hospitals, where more advanced procedures are available.

“We’d like to see this road built to add a little bit of help to our response times to local area hospitals. Currently, we are having to use Interstate 35 as our only local route to Austin, or Manchaca Road to Brodie Lane or South First. During high traffic times on I-35 sometimes our response times are extremely high,” Huckaby said. “With the road being built it will allow us quicker access and easier access to provide patient care and mobility to hospitals in the city of Austin.”

Roy Waley, conservation chair for the Austin Sierra Club and member of the Keep Mopac Local coalition, said the project requires further planning and more thorough assessment.

“I keep hearing that we’ve talked about this road for decades. That’s right. We’ve talked about it. We haven’t planned it. It’s time to start planning it now,” Waley said. “It needs to be part of a comprehensive plan because it’s not a road that just takes place in this one section. It’s a part of a road system and its greatest impact will be on Mopac.”

Waley said Austinites have spent too much time, money and effort to protect Barton Springs to risk damaging the aquifer.

“All of Austin has spent hundreds of millions of dollars working to protect this unique environmental feature right in the heart of our city,” Waley said. “We talk about how we want to keep Austin special. This is one of the things that keeps Austin special. Another road does not make Austin special.”

Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance and member of the Keep Mopac Local coalition, said TxDOT’s draft environmental study is premature.

“It’s very clear that the critical environmental assessment of the area, the environmental study, has not been done. The road alignment has not been chosen. None of the reported mitigation measures that are supposed to keep pollution out of the aquifer have been chosen.”

Carolyn Blackwood, a resident of Shady Hollow, said SH 45 SW is a necessity for Shady Hollow residents.

“Brodie Lane has been used as a highway for the San Marcos, Kyle and Buda area to come through in order to get on to Loop 1/South Mopac, and we were promised 20 years ago that there would be something to alleviate the traffic and it hasn’t happened yet.”

Blackwood said the traffic on Brodie Lane impacts the quality of life in the neighborhood and creates a safety hazard for pedestrians.

“There’s a time element,” Blackwood said. “There’s a safety issue with children going to school.”

An online open house for the project is available at sh45sw.com. All comments must be received by Aug. 13 to be included in the official record.

 


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