The Y at Oak Hill is a major gateway in and out of Austin. It's where Highway 290 and SH71 intersect.
For decades the "Y" has been a notorious bottleneck, but the hope for long overdue traffic relief is now back in the fast lane. "So we have developed a workable solution,” said Tx DOT Planning and Development director Brian Barth.
The green light came Thursday for the $440 million Oak Hill Parkway project. It is among several road plans that members of the state highway transportation commission approved.
All totaled; the potential price tag is about $8 billion. "And in fact, the UTP that was approved yesterday, was the largest Unified Transportation Program in Texas' history,” said Barth.
Recent state legislation made construction funding possible. It involves redirecting, to the transportation department, some money from oil and gas revenue as well as from vehicle sales tax. "So we are now ready to move forward with that solution,” said Barth.
This is animation of what the new intersection will look like. Hwy 290 will be lowered into the existing roadbed. Flyover ramps will be built to provide access to and off of SH71.
Commuters who have gone through this gauntlet for years are excited that the old promise was not forgotten. "We've lived out here in Oak Hill for 20, 23 years … I truly believe it because I've seen all the old businesses disappear,” said Bruce Maxwell.
The new interchange will also be a freeway, the tolls were eliminated from the plans.
That’s a big deal for Debbie Kessler.
“It’s huge, there is no reason to toll it, they've been promising since I lived here in the 90's, and it’s ridiculous. and If it has tolls I’m going to hold you responsible for telling me it’s not,” Kessler told me.
To buy some time, TX DOT modified the intersection with a unique design.
Traffic that's turning, is weaved into special lanes. It helped, but it can also be a little confusing. When construction starts, the goal will be to keep the traffic moving.
"We believe and we are going to work very hard to make this happen, that traffic will flow through construction as well as it flows now,” said Barth. Construction is not expected to start until 2020 and its estimated the work could take up to 4 years to complete.
Tx DOT is also moving forward with environmental studies to expand I-35 through downtown Austin. The idea of installing toll lanes, like those on MoPac, is no longer on the table.
Funding for that job also remains uncertain.