Visitors to the Oak Hill Parkway Project open house studied table-long maps of the concepts being presented by TxDOT and CTRMA.
by Bobbie Jean Sawyer
The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority and TxDOT presented to the public the two remaining Oak Hill Parkway concepts selected to advance to the next round of evaluation—leaving out the Concept F “parkway” option favored by the Fix 290 group.
The Oak Hill Parkway Environmental Study is an effort by the TxDOT and the Mobility Authority to improve mobility throughout Oak Hill. A June 17 open house at Covington Middle School featured maps of the latest options and sought feedback from community members attending.
Concept A, which includes depressed U.S. 290 mainlanes under SH-71, and Concept C, which includes U.S. 290 mainlanes north of the creek with direct connector ramps, were selected by a team of engineers out of a total of eight mobility concepts. The “no-build” option, which relies solely on the continuous flow intersections currently being installed and no additional construction, will also advance to the next level of evaluation.
Rick L’Amie, manager of communications for the Mobility Authority, said each concept was measured on the same standards, such as operational efficiency, reduced travel time, multimodal travel options, reduced crashes and emergency vehicle access.
“After we received input from the community based on the original eight concepts, we took that feedback and measured it against the overall project purpose and need,” L’Amie said. “The questions are asked: Will this particular concept meet this purpose and need?”
L’Amie said while concepts A and C were selected to move on to the next phase of evaluation, other alternatives may be chosen if the community feedback warrants further assessment.
“It’s very much a work in progress,” L’Amie said. “If it does meet the regional transportation needs along with the local desires, there’s a chance a concept could move forward.”
L’Amie said a final decision wouldn’t be made until the final public hearing, expected to occur in 2015.
Wade Strong, a project planner with the Rodriguez Transportation Group, said the project team would continue to work on the concepts to form a clearer picture of what each concept would look like if developed.
“We’re going to get into looking at the details of these a lot more than what we have and really refine them and be able to (give everybody) a much better idea of what the costs are,” Strong said. “Right now it’s still so conceptual it’s really hard.”
Van Short, who lives between Oak Hill and Dripping Springs, said he prefers Concept C because of its high capacity.
“It maintains flow of traffic and yet allows through traffic, which is very important because there’s a lot of populations to the west,” Short said.
Short said the massive increase in populations to the west of Oak Hill has created an immediate need for traffic flow improvement on 290.
“It’s a U.S. highway. It’s past due for improvements,” Short said.
Angie Rubottom, a southern Travis County resident, said she preferred a concept not selected for advancement: Concept F, an alternative created through a collaboration with Fix 290, a grassroots community organization dedicated to creating a parkway with a limited concrete footprint. Rubottom said she would prefer a solution that doesn’t include building frontage roads.
“I’m concerned about the expense of all that cement with the frontage roads and of course I can’t help but wonder if some of that is being driven by the financing question— about whether or not Alternative F could be tolled in the way that they think of tolling,” Rubottom said.
Despite her reservations, Rubottom said she remains positive about the direction the project is heading.
“I think everybody had kind of gotten their heads around the idea that this is the gateway to the Hill Country and the gateway from the Hill Country to the Texas State Capital, and we really need to consider the aesthetics of it and what this looks like,” Rubottom said.
Rubottom said, above all, she would like to see a parkway solution that maintains the natural beauty and character of Oak Hill.
“I like the idea that people are talking about trying to maintain a park-like atmosphere around Williamson Creek,” Rubottom said. “The devil’s in the details, but I’m very glad they’ve got landscape architect expertise on board because I think those guys, if listened to, could really save some money in addition to beautification. I think they have a skill set that’s been missing in a lot of projects.”
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