Can the Y Be Fixed?

"Community alliance" of Oak Hill residents, anti-toll activists, and Austin environmentalists gets first shot next week at convincing CAMPO to reconsider TXDOT's plans for the "Y"

The Fix290 Coalition gets its first shot next week at convincing the CAMPO Transportation Policy Board – meeting Monday, June 12 at UT's Thompson Center – to reconsider the Texas Department of Transportation's plans for Oak Hill's 290/71 interchange – aka the "Y." Highway 290 bisects Oak Hill, and the "community alliance" of Oak Hill residents, anti-toll activists, and Austin environmentalists wants to see a kinder, gentler version of TxDOT's proposed elevated U.S. 290/SH 71 interchange plan, which they believe could preserve the Hill Country character of Oak Hill and be integrated into the neighborhood plan currently under way.

Theirs will be an uphill battle. The design of TxDOT's 12-lane elevated bypass, mothballed for almost two decades, is well on its way to completion, even though TxDOT has taken input in recent months on tweaking some elements, such as exits off lanes into surrounding neighborhoods. Once construction is complete, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority will operate the toll road for TxDOT.

The Fix290 Coalition's alternative is a six-lane, nontolled parkway through Oak Hill, akin to portions of MoPac, which locals say would provide more opportunities to go to Oak Hill rather than pass through Oak Hill. Each plan has advantages and disadvantages. The TxDOT elevated plan would move more traffic through the corridor and into the Hill Country, but it does little to improve cross traffic and exhibits conventionally grim superhighway aesthetics. The six-lane Fix290 plan preserves more land and Williamson Creek, but TxDOT argues the proposed roundabouts cannot carry the heavy traffic loads expected for the corridor, and that a parkway would mean almost no cross traffic in Oak Hill, making local businesses inaccessible to drivers. Advocates argue that whatever the possible drawbacks, the alternative offers a less expensive, less concrete-dense way to address the undeniable regional traffic issues.

Adding to this debate is the fact that the entire U.S. 290/SH 71 project is a central piece of a much larger regional and statewide toll-road financing plan. As both CTRMA and TxDOT officials point out, the maximized funding from the state that CTRMA expects is based on the region's agreement to fund most of its impending road projects by tolling. Foregoing the tolling of U.S. 290 would, in theory, take both toll revenue and state revenue off the table. Agenda and details for Monday's CAMPO meeting are at www.campotexas.org.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

elevated US 290 / SH 71 interchange planOak Hill, CAMPO, 290 / 71, Fix290 Coalition, TxDOT, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, Oak Hill, toll roads

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