AUSTIN, Texas - A major construction project is well underway in Southwest Austin.
Many drivers say the Oak Hill Parkway is much-needed to accommodate traffic, while others are upset about the number of trees that have been taken down to make way for it.
"The Oak Hill Parkway project is fully underway," said TxDOT Public Information Officer Brad Wheelis.
It’s been four months since TxDOT broke ground on a massive revamp of the 290/71 interchange in Southwest Austin. The five-year, seven-mile-long project will turn the two highways into an elevated freeway—something TxDOT says is necessary to handle the growing volume of traffic.
"We needed to build something that would accommodate not only today's numbers but out in the future," said Wheelis.
As the project unfolds, residents are split. "I don’t fight it at all. I think it’s a good idea," said Matthew Funderberg, who works in the area. "Just wish we could get it sooner."
"All the trees are gone, which is really sad because I moved out here for more nature," said Jessica Lawson, who lives in the neighborhood. "It’s disheartening to see."
As part of the plan, hundreds of trees were removed to make way for a new frontage road—something Lawson worries will make the area less appealing.
"I do travel up and down here quite a bit, and the traffic does kind of get a little dicey, but for me I would rather that be the case than taking out all the trees," said Lawson.
But TxDOT says they have a plan for that—by bringing an arborist onboard during construction, preserving iconic trees, and planting hundreds of new ones.
"We’ve identified more than 200 trees to be preserved. our contractor is looking at the design and checking to see if there are any way, we can tweak the design to save additional trees," said Wheelis.
Funderberg, a manager for Domino’s, welcomes the parkway, saying something’s gotta give when it comes to the bumper-to-bumper traffic.
"Traffic’s terrible. I mean, yeah, all day, especially around 5 or 6:00, when people start getting out of work, this area in particular and then all the way down 290. I have delivery drivers that get stuck there for 15, 20 minutes," said Funderberg.
When it’s done, the interchange will include pedestrian and bike paths in addition to the freeway.
In the meantime, TxDOT says lane closures will be mostly at night, and there will continue to be noise from the project, but they’ll try to keep disruptions to a minimum. "We ask for the public to be patient with us because this is a long-term project. there is a lot of work to be done, and all of that is ahead of us for the most part," said Wheelis.
There are some ongoing legal challenges, the project continues to move forward. In the coming months, crews will be moving utilities, adding retaining walls and sound walls in the area.
The Oak Hill Parkway is slated to be done in 2026.