It’s a grind getting through Oak Hill where Hwy 290 and Hwy 71 intersect; and not just during the rush hour any more. Known as the "Y", longtime residents have seen the location go from a single flashing light to a patch work of temporary fixes.
"And it’s ridiculous to think you are just going to ignore, like the council has been doing here for years, just ignore it and hope it goes away, does that work, know never has, got to do something about it,” said Ron Dillard who lives in the Oak Hill area.
TxDOT recently got federal environmental approval on its 12 lane Oak Hill Parkway design. Hwy290 is to be lowered for almost 3 miles with connecting ramps at Hwy 71 and an overpass at William Cannon. The project, which runs along Williams Creek, is expected to cost more than $500 million, and has now triggered two federal lawsuits from environmental groups.
"Our view is the proposal is way too big, too expensive, and will cut down into the aquifer with massive excavation, that will absolutely harm endangered salamanders at Barton Springs and other springs, contribute to downstream flooding,” said Bill Bunch with the Save Our Springs Alliance.
The lawsuit filed by Save Our Springs Alliance claims TxDOT did not use up to date information regarding potential environmental impacts. It also faults federal regulators for accepting TxDOT's conclusion that the project will most likely not have an adverse impact. The other lawsuit makes similar complaints.
"There's just a better way that we can move traffic through the Y for less money and less harm to the community including the endangered species,” said Bunch.
Along with the Save Our Springs Alliance the environmental coalition that will appear here at federal court includes; Save Oak Hill. The Save Barton Creek Association, Fix 290, Clean Water Action, and the South Windmill Run neighborhood association.
An alternate plan called “Livable Oak Hill” is what the environmental groups want. The roadway is not lowered and has fewer lanes than what TxDOT wants to build. It also includes a two lane by-pass. Expands parkland along Williams Creek and even proposes the building of a new old town venue. The plan has no funding and no official support. For those caught up in the gridlock here, the one constant continues to be, frustration the intersection may never get fixed.
“Well I hope so, I always have my hopes, but something seems to always mess it up, but I hope it happens,” said Jo Gale Moore who frequently drives through the Y.
TxDOT officials declined to comment because of the lawsuits. No court date has been set. Before the legal challenges were filed ground breaking was anticipated to start in 2020 with construction lasting four years.