Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Statesman finally ran Carol and Nina's guest editorial yesterday. Here's the link:


Cespedes and Butts: Save Oak Hill from TxDot Superhighway

Carol Cespedes and Nina Butts, LOCAL CONTRIBUTORS

Monday, September 25, 2006

Springs, clear creeks, majestic live oaks. These are the pride of Austin. Those of us lucky and plucky enough to live here are nourished by Austin's natural setting.

Southwest of downtown Austin, Oak Hill is blessed with live oaks hundreds of years old. Oak Hill was named for these titans. Williamson Creek is a clear, spring-fed creek running through the heart of the community.

But the Texas Department of Transportation is revving up the chainsaws and bulldozers to destroy these invaluable natural features of Oak Hill. TxDOT plans to cut down the majestic live oaks, and put Williamson Creek into a ditch. If TxDOT gets its way, the Oak Hill Y at U.S. 290 and Texas 71 will look just like the superhighway mixmaster at U.S. 183 and Interstate 35.

Fix 290, a coalition of Oak Hill property owners, neighborhood associations, and environmentalists, has proposed an alternative to TxDOT's superhighway. Our concept is simple: a six-lane, mostly grade-level parkway that will move traffic safely and keep the majestic live oaks and Williamson Creek intact.

An independent transportation-engineering firm, Smart Mobility, analyzed the Fix 290 alternative and concluded that the "plan will provide the needed vehicular capacity to meet the CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) 2030 daily traffic projections for this location. Further, this plan will result in many longer term benefits to the region."

A parkway can meet traffic needs without ruining Oak Hill. We believe that TxDOT's superhighway will be bad for business, bad for property values, bad for water and air quality, and just plain bad for Oak Hill.

Elevating U.S. 290 for two miles, as TxDOT plans, will damage the sense of community and spell doom for many small businesses. The elevated lanes will bring a permanent increase in noise and light pollution. The flyover intersection will overwhelm the commercial hub at the Oak Hill Y.

The road will take at least three years to build, snarling traffic and testing tempers. TxDOT's price tag, almost $200 million, will mean a sweet prize for the winning contractor. Highway contractors contribute lavishly to political campaigns in Texas, and only two Texas contractors, Cintra-Zachry and Williams Brothers, are big enough to take on the Oak Hill project.

Our parkway alternative is far less expensive than TxDOT's design and will take far less time to build. It also provides better access for local businesses and reduces the barrier imposed by the highway to a scale that can be easily spanned by pedestrian and bicycle bridges. With reduced asphalt and disturbance to Williamson Creek, the Fix 290 plan would provide improved water quality for the Edwards Aquifer and Barton Springs.

More than 1,700 citizens have signed our Fix 290 online petition. The Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods endorsed our parkway plan in May. With the help of Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, we presented our conceptual design to CAMPO in June, where it was well-received. We are now working for a directive from CAMPO to redesign the highway according to the parkway concept.

With the help of CAMPO, the creek and live oaks enjoyed by our ancestors will thrive for centuries to come.

Cespedes is president of South Windmill Run Neighborhood Association in Oak Hill. Butts teaches English at Austin Community College. Read the Smart Mobility report at

George Eliot


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