What problem is the Oak Hill Parkway going to address?
Congestion has reduced mobility and quality of life in Oak Hill and surrounding communities. The intersection of two major state highways (US 290 and SH 71) the “Y” in Oak Hill, is a gateway to southwest Travis County. It serves as a key route between Central Austin and fast-growing suburban and rural communities such as Lakeway, Bee Cave, Dripping Springs and Johnson City. US 290 is one of Texas' most congested highway corridors with drivers wasting more than 454,000 hours per year stuck in traffic. In addition, this corridor has become an unreliable route for both transit and emergency vehicles.
What is the Oak Hill Parkway project?
The Oak Hill Parkway is a combined effort by TxDOT, the Mobility Authority, the City of Austin, Travis County and other local experts to address traffic congestion along the US 290 corridor through Oak Hill. The team has been charged by CAMPO to thoroughly analyze the corridor and determine the best approach for improving mobility. Through extensive analysis and community outreach, the project sponsors will identify a recommended solution, or "preferred alternative."
What are the study boundaries?
The Oak Hill Parkway project study area extends approximately four miles along US 290 from west of FM 1826 to Loop 1 (MoPac) as well as along approximately one mile of SH 71 from US 290 north to Silvermine Drive. The proposed improvements include considering direct connectors at the intersection of US 290 and SH 71. These study boundaries were designated and given to the project team by CAMPO as part of our mandate to thoroughly analyze the corridor and determine the best approach for improving mobility. Click here for a high-level map of the project area.
Although the study area on US 290 terminates at RM 1826, as a result of public input, a transition area extending the project past Circle Drive/Southview Road has been incorporated into the design schematics.
How were the current build alternatives determined?
Stakeholder input and our analyses since the study launched in 2012 show that congestion is reducing mobility and quality of life in Oak Hill and surrounding communities. Throughout the study process, we've presented numerous mobility concepts for evaluation and feedback. We've held six Open Houses as well as numerous workshops and stakeholder meetings to ensure that two way communication has been ongoing between the team and the community. Through this collaborative process with the community as well as our ongoing technical analysis, we narrowed the mobility concepts from ten to two.
Alternatives A and C are currently being evaluated for further study. The No Build, or "Do Nothing," Alternative is also being carried forward and serves as a baseline for analysis.
These alternatives will be evaluated in greater detail during the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) process, resulting in the identification of a "preferred" alternative. Learn more about the process and how one of the alternatives can become a "preferred" alternative by clicking here.
For more on the history of previous studies to improve mobility in the Oak Hill area, please view our history page.
Could a smaller project address the congestion problems in Oak Hill?
Unfortunately, no. Traffic demand on this corridor is just too high. The project team is designing a project that meets the traffic demand along the corridor today and best manages the traffic projections of tomorrow. We are trying to keep the footprint as small as possible in order to responsibly meet the Purpose and Need of the project, and it's important to us to design something that requires very limited right-of-way acquisition.
When we launched the study in 2012, the community told us that traffic congestion is a serious problem. In fact, 83% of survey respondents agreed that a goal of any proposed improvement should be to reduce congestion and manage traffic. TxDOT and the Mobility Authority are tasked with providing a real transportation solution that provides meaningful traffic relief.
What is the No-Build Alternative?
The No Build Alternative is still an option on the table for approval and is being carried forward as a baseline for comparison. At the end of this environmental study, if the TxDOT Environmental Division decides that the No Build Alternative is the preferred alternative, US 290 and SH 71 would continue to exist as they do today and would continue to have standard, routine maintenance over the next 30 years. Travel times will increase approximately 25 to 35 minutes over what they are today, and congestion, safety, and mobility would continue to decline in the Oak Hill area as population increases. In addition, the proposed bicycle/pedestrian facilities and the upstream detention ponds would not be constructed.
Will trees be removed to construct the proposed improvements?
Yes. The Mobility Authority and TxDOT are sensitive to the value of the natural environment, but some trees would need to be removed to address the congestion issues along the corridor and provide safe driving conditions. The project team is coordinating with the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation (AHTF) and an arborist at the city of Austin to identify opportunities for tree preservation.
Of note, the Grandmother Oak and the Nieces will be close to the proposed roadway, but the team is looking into ways to avoid or limit impacts. The Beckett Grove Tree will not be impacted.
One of the benefits of elevating US 290 over William Cannon Drive is that it limits impacts to the critical root zone of these aforementioned oak trees. The AHTF has shared with the project team that elevation in this area provides better protection for the trees.
We are also working with AHTF and other community stakeholders to identify potential areas to relocate some of the oak trees. These efforts will include broader community conversations on the priority of relocating these trees versus planting new ones and/or implementing other Context-Sensitive Solutions.
In addition, if the project is approved for construction, it will include an aesthetics plan that incorporates the addition of new trees and vegetation in the project area. In our discussions with the city arborist, it was noted that if trees are to be planted, increasing the diversity of oaks (by age and type) would be preferable.
Will potential noise impacts be evaluated as part of the study?
Yes. A noise study is slated to occur later in the environmental study process.
What measures will be taken to protect water quality?
The project team will follow Best Management Practices to develop temporary and permanent water quality treatment measures for the Oak Hill Parkway project. These methods may include grassy swales and bioretention ponds. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulations regarding construction in the Edwards Aquifer will be adhered to. Furthermore, our team is in coordination with the city of Austin's Watershed Protection Department in an effort to provide effective water quality protection for the project area. More information was presented at a Water Quality Workshop held in August 2015.
Why are elevated structures proposed as part of the project?
Of the eight miles of roadway proposed as part of the project, US 290 would be elevated for one half-mile (Alternative A), or one mile (Alternative C). These short sections of elevated mainlanes are proposed for a few reasons.
It would create a bypass at the intersections and signals at William Cannon Drive and SH 71 (some of the biggest bottlenecks in the corridor). By elevating the direct connection from US 290 to SH 71, commuter traffic would be kept off of local roads, easing up access to local businesses and neighborhoods. In addition, the study area is located within the 100-year flood plain and elevating the direct connection between US 290 to SH 71 is safer and more responsible.
How tall are the proposed elevated connections between US 290 and SH 71?
Both Alternatives A and C propose a one-lane direct connector in each direction. These structures would take people heading westbound on US 290 to northbound on SH 71, and people heading southbound on SH 71 to eastbound on US 290.
Each structure would be less than 40 feet wide and approximately 25 feet above existing ground (about the height of a two story house). For those familiar with the area, it would be shorter than the Austin Pizza Garden. The structure would be very similar to the height of the US 290 overpass at Old Fredericksburg Road.
Why wasn't Concept F advanced through schematic development and evaluation?
Concept F was a design concept developed at the request of, and with input from, the Fix 290 stakeholder group. Their desire was to develop a concept that included non-continuous frontage roads, an at-grade intersection at SH 71, a western transition through Circle Dr. on US 290, and a braided ramp providing access for Austin Community College (ACC).
While aspects of Concept F were carried forward and incorporated into Alternatives A & C (the braided ramp to ACC and an extension past Circle Drive), Concept F was evaluated and did not advance through the screening process. The primary reason Concept F did not advance for further study is that it would not provide adequate local connectivity or serve as a reliable route for emergency responders or the public during road closures. This is because it did not have a parallel road system such as continuous frontage roads or a grid network of local streets to serve as alternate routes through adjacent neighborhoods.
In addition to providing limited mobility and safety improvements, it also would have required the highest number of commercial displacements of all the alternatives under consideration.
What is a Parkway?
According to Wikipedia, the word, "parkway" is a generic term that is often, but not necessarily, synonymous with expressway, freeway or interstate. Webster's defines a parkway as "a broad landscaped thoroughfare." Some parkways built in the early 20th century passed through parkland or linked cities to suburban parks. Some parkways feature heavily landscaped medians. A number of modern parkways are high speed with bridges separating them from cross streets, and some are tolled. Some examples of modern parkways include the Garden State Parkway, Northwest Parkway, Suncoast Parkway, Pocahontas Parkway, Grand Parkway and the Polk Parkway. Area parkways include Southwest Parkway and Pickle Parkway (SH 130).
COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS AND ROADWAY AESTHETICS
Are pedestrian and bicycle facilities proposed as part of this project?
Yes. The project proposes construction of approximately seven miles of 10-foot wide Shared Use Paths along the Oak Hill Parkway corridor, connecting from MoPac to Circle Drive on US 290 and along SH 71 between US 290 and Silvermine Dr. Improvements are envisioned to connect with the proposed Y to Barton Creek (YBC) Trail under study by the city of Austin. Pedestrian underpasses/bridges at US 290/SH 71 and US 290/William Cannon intersections are also being studied.
Striped bicycle lanes on cross streets will be implemented to allow for safe travel across US 290 at Circle Dr., Scenic Brook Dr., Convict Hill Rd., William Cannon Dr., and RM 1826. There would be a similar bicycle lane at SH 71 and Scenic Brook Dr.
Additionally, the project would provide approximately seven miles of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant, 6-foot wide continuous sidewalks along the corridor.
What is Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS)?
CSS is a planning approach that gives communities an opportunity to influence the roadway design so that it reflects their cultural and historic values as well as their aesthetic preferences. Through effective stakeholder involvement and careful planning and design, the Oak Hill Parkway is envisioned to be a safe and attractive transportation corridor that addresses growth in Central Texas by improving traffic flow and capacity, and by providing new mobility options for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, while enhancing quality of life in Oak Hill. Learn more here.
PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AND INPUT
How are you using public input?
Public input is critical to the Oak Hill Parkway project team. Since October 2012, we've held six Open Houses, 13 issue-specific workshops, over 62 stakeholder meetings, and received more than 669 official comments. Learn more about all of our events by clicking here.
We are accountable to all stakeholders and are committed to collaborative and transparent public involvement throughout the decision-making process. When you give us your ideas and suggestions, the team reviews them together and determines if we can implement them. We have chosen to go above and beyond the legal requirements set forth by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in our outreach program. It is important to us to have a successful project the entire community can embrace. Any change to the current design has to still meet the Purpose and Need of the project and be both reasonable and financially feasible. Many of the comments we’ve received have resulted in great improvements to the overall project!
The project today continues to be fine-tuned due to public input after each time we visit with you! We look forward to continuing our collaborative work with the community and other stakeholders on shaping the proposed improvements in Oak Hill in the most reasonable and responsible manner.
How can I stay informed about the project and get involved in the process?
Information about the project can be obtained via this website, by contacting the project team at 512-342-3281 or attending open houses and other public meetings that will be conducted throughout the environmental study process. Project team members are also available to meet with neighborhood associations, community groups and others to discuss issues of concern, various improvement options and the results of technical and environmental analyses.
TOLLING AND TRANSIT
How does the regional transportation planning process work?
The Mobility Authority and TxDOT do not determine which roads to build, nor do they determine which roads will be tolled. The Capitol Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson Counties, develops a long-range transportation plan for the region, prioritizes projects, estimates cost per project, and determines the most viable funding options on a case-by-case basis. All projects, including the Oak Hill Parkway, begin as recommendations in the CAMPO plan. These projects are usually long-term projects, and can be done more quickly through a tolled option.
Why are the proposed improvements identified as a toll road in the CAMPO plan?
In the CAMPO 2040 plan, as well as previous versions of the plan, the Oak Hill Parkway project is designated as a toll road. Tolling is a creative financing mechanism that allows communities to bond transportation improvements and pay back the bonds and ongoing maintenance with user fees, or tolls. However, if other funding sources become available to fund construction and maintenance of the Oak Hill Parkway project, and the region prioritizes spending that money on the Oak Hill Parkway, it will not need to be tolled.
It is important to note that the proposed design would be essentially the same if it was to be built non-tolled.
Tolling is a user-based fee, similar to user fees for public uses such as parks and other recreational facilities. User fees differ from taxes in that not only do they defray costs, they are also proportionate and voluntary, giving drivers an opportunity to make an economic choice. Paying taxes is not a choice. Drivers have the option to pay tolls or take alternate routes while taxes are mandatory and charged to everyone.
If the project is approved as a toll facility, at least the same number of taxpayer-funded, non-tolled general purpose lanes that are available today would remain so in the future in accordance with state laws. Drivers would have a choice whether to use the Oak Hill parkway tolled or non-tolled general purpose lanes.
In addition, users of the facility would also have the choice to ride a Capital Metro bus or registered van pool. Capital Metro buses and registered van pools would not be charged tolls to use the toll facility, but would receive the benefit of reliable travel times as a result. Toll roads encourage people to carpool as well. In Atlanta, Express Buses make up 2% of the vehicles in the Express Lanes along I-85, but they make up around 26% of the people moving through lane.
Which types of vehicles are exempt from paying tolls on roads operated by the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority?
On the toll roads operated by the Mobility Authority, including the Oak Hill Parkway, the following can drive toll-free on the toll lanes:
- Emergency responders
- State and federal military vehicles
- Public transit buses
- Capital Metro registered carpools and vanpools
- MetroAccess vehicles
Can Proposition 1 and/or 7 pay for Oak Hill Parkway?
In the CAMPO 2040 Plan, Oak Hill Parkway is designated as a toll project, so Proposition 1 or 7 funds cannot be used to finance the project. In addition, the money allocated for Proposition 1 and what this region anticipates to receive from Proposition 7 is nowhere near enough to cover the cost of the total project. It is anticipated that the new funds generated by these constitutional amendments will be used to improve I-35.
What about toll diversion? Will this project force everyone onto the tolled lanes from the non-tolled general purpose lanes?
Traffic modeling takes toll diversion, or the choice to take the expressway versus the general purpose lanes into account. This number fluctuates depending on the amount of demand for the facility. When congestion is heavy, less traffic diverts from the expressway. When capacity is available on the general purpose lanes, more drivers take the general purpose lanes. The toll used in the model is based on average rate per mile in the Central Texas area. Projects currently being operated by the Mobility Authority show a 25% to 36% decrease in traffic along the general purpose lanes after the tolled mainlanes opened. Similar results are expected on Oak Hill Parkway, should it be approved.
Why isn't rail being considered for this corridor?
All transportation projects that will be studied must be in the CAMPO 2040 plan, which at this time, does not include rail in the US 290 and SH 71 corridor. Capital Metro is the local public transportation provider and they developed the Project Connect Long Range Transit Plan that outlines the roles of express buses, commuter rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, and local bus service. Funding for a specific southwest transit corridor plan was included on the November 2014 ballot as part of the rail proposal that voters rejected. No funding is identified for that plan at this time.
Will public transit enhancements be included in the Oak Hill Parkway project?
The Oak Hill Parkway design alternatives account for future mobility needs such as rapid bus, light rail or added lanes, which is consistent with regional planning efforts. Coordination is also currently underway with Capital Metro for possible access improvements for park-and-ride facilities and bus turn-out locations. If the project is approved as a toll facility, Capital Metro buses and registered van pools would receive the benefit of reliable travel times and use of the toll facility for free.
Is there room for additional transportation improvements in the future, like rail?
In both Alternatives A and C, there would be room for a future lane in each direction, which could potentially be used by transit and/or cars. Because the terrain in the corridor has more than a 7% grade, rail would not be feasible without building a rail line on a new and flatter alignment.