AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Transportation has been working on a plan to improve the “Y” intersection in Oak Hill. That’s the US Highway 290 and State Highway 71 interchange.
According to TxDOT, U.S. 290 is the 64th most congested road in Texas, and drivers waste more than 454,000 hours per year stuck in traffic on U.S. 290/S.H. 71.
However, a lawsuit filed this week by groups Fix 290, Save Oak Hill, Save Barton Creek Association, South Windmill Run Neighborhood Association, Clean Water Action and nearby resident landowners is asking TxDOT to stop and rethink the project’s design.
TxDOT is proposing to build an overpass and upgrade the road to have three lanes in each direction and two to three lanes of frontage road in each direction.
“It’s going to be a whole mess. There’s so much earth being moved,” said Carol Cespedes, who lives in Oak Hill.
She said there’s no doubt something must be done to alleviate congestion. “You need to have enough lanes, which they do not have at present, so that it can safely take care of present traffic, emergency traffic, and we think there needs to be room for public transit,” she said.
But Cespedes said TxDOT’s current plan worries her. “They’re planning on going down, and we have very deep concerns about that,” she explained. “We’re not sure, for instance, if there’s adequate drainage, so if there’s a massive sudden storm, will cars be stranded there.”
She told KXAN she’s also concerned about what TxDOT crews may find underground.
Earlier this week, we reported how a surprise discovery of caves at MoPac and La Crosse Avenue forced TxDOT to delay the bridge work there by a few months.
“That’s a major concern. We would expect to encounter caves in this area,” said Angela Richter, Executive Director of Save Barton Creek Association.
She said the groups that filed a lawsuit want to work with TxDOT to develop a different plan to minimize deep digging.
“One of our biggest asks is to remove the excavation in this project, and we feel like we have a very common sense suggestion for how to do that, which is to remove the excavation, bring the main lanes to at grade and just to have bridges at four cross streets,” she said.
The Environmental Impact Statement for the Oak Hill project does say crews could encounter “undocumented karst features” in this area.
Richter said, “I find it interesting that they acknowledged that in the EIS, but the design doesn’t seem to reflect any sensitivity toward that unique ecology.”
Cespedes said, “We need to have it done better. Certainly slow down. Before they start to dig, be sure what’s ahead.”
Mitigation plans for karst features at MoPac and La Crosse Ave.
TXDOT cannot comment on lawsuits, but they told KXAN earlier this week, whenever they discover a cave, each karst feature requires a separate mitigation plan.
Those plans are reviewed and approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
We obtained three most recent plans approved by TCEQ.
Those documents show work is done in different phases to close the voids while minimizing any adverse impacts to the caves.