Construction begins to fix major gridlocks within Austin

Cedar trees were cut down Wednesday along RM 2222 in northwest Austin.

It’s to help widen the roadway. At the same time that working was being done, a groundbreaking ceremony was held. The $23-million project is designed to ease gridlock at the RR 620 intersection, and is also an example of what TxDOT expects to be a big year for commuters.

"They'll be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, they are going to have to deal with that construction, that’s always a little bit of a pain, but they can tell something is happening and relief is on the way,” said TX DOT spokesperson Brad Wheelis.

For TXDOT, one of the biggest happenings so far is getting the green light to improve the Y at Oak Hill. Currently, those traveling westbound on the Hwy 290 / 71 expressway, grind to a halt because of traffic lights. Eastbound traffic also backs up.

A plan to change that was approved Tuesday by members of CAMPO; a regional mobility planning organization. Terry McCoy, TXDOTs engineer for the Austin District, said agreed it’s not a silver bullet, but its close. "This is a project that’s long overdue, it’s a project 30 years in the making,” said McCoy.

The $440 million project will allow traffic to flow through an expressway and across flyovers.

No stop lights and no tolls.

The goal is to start construction by early 2020. "This is a project that’s designed to accommodate traffic out to 2040. that’s our design year 2040. So it will take care of traffic today. It will take care of traffic tomorrow and it will take us into the future,” said McCoy.

McCoy says it’s possible a ripple effect may happen.

Congestion on MOPAC and other roads like Southwest Parkway could be eased.

There is one thing that could hit the brakes on the project, and that one thing is the Austin City Council. FOX 7 spoke to Mayor Steve Adler and asked him if he could guarantee their cooperation. "You know I don’t guarantee anything but I would say it passed unanimously on CAMPO,” said Mayor Adler. 

The Austin City Council will vote later this month on providing money to buy the last sections of right-of-way.  Adler likes the odds for passage because four members of the council are also on the planning organization. "Things are getting aligned right now on mobility in our city and we are going to have to keep pushing,” said Mayor Adler.

The council vote, however will be another opportunity for environmental groups to voice opposition.That opposition could stall a ground breaking ceremony like the one on RM 2222 from taking place at the Y in Oak Hill.