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Dunkerley, others seek study of Oak Hill 'Y'

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 by

Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley, intent on finding a solution for the "Y" in Oak Hill, has outlined a list of questions she wants answered by the Texas Department of Transportation when the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization policy board meets in December. At that time, the group should reach a decision on whether to redirect the transportation project.

Last night’s CAMPO meeting was heavy on the proxy votes – a number of members were out of town at conferences – but a trio of Austin elected officials – Mayor Will Wynn, Council Member Jennifer Kim and Dunkerley – were ready to talk about the "Y."

In recent months, two competing groups – both hoping to move the project forward – have emerged to suggest alternatives to the TxDOT plan for Oak Hill: Fix 290 and Consensus 290. Last night, both groups – and elected officials – spoke with a common voice on one issue, which was to find some solution – any solution – to the long-delayed road plan.

A number of plans – the original plan and at least two, and possibly three, alternatives – have been floating for a number of months now. Dunkerley said she would like to see these plans folded into a matrix and some points compared: cost of each project; the impact on Williamson Creek; the anticipated economic impact of each project; and whether each version of the project also could carry sufficient traffic. Kim also was interested in the timelines of the project.

Dunkerley also has zeroed in on some problem areas of the project: how each project would handle access into and out of neighborhoods and how each would deal with the problematic William Cannon and "Y" intersections. How traffic will be handled during construction of a parkway – especially if it’s a parkway without frontage roads – also will have to be figured into the mix.

Both Fix 290 and Consensus 290 addressed the CAMPO board during comments. Both mentioned the fact that development – specifically, investors – won’t come to Oak Hill until the "Y" issue is addressed. Robert Kleeman, of Consensus 290, said his group "didn’t have the brain cells" to come up with the specifics of the plan but had landed on a number of recommendations on the project: Make the project a top priority. Be sure to separate local traffic and pass-thru traffic.

The group also made additional recommendations: Make sure the project contributes to a proposed Town Center concept. Add an overpass or underpass to increase connectivity at Convict Hill. And design the road in a way that maximizes safety and minimizes cut-through traffic for the Scenic Brook, Windmill Run and Covered Bridge neighborhoods. The group also wants plenty of native vegetation, mitigated noise impact and directional lighting intended to illuminate the roads and not the adjacent neighborhoods.

Nina Butts, speaking on behalf of Fix 290, stressed the continued support for the parkway concept. She noted that elevated lanes were not always ideal – saying that the only thing it had brought to Dellwood, off the upper deck of Interstate 35, were pager stores and massage parlors. She noted that a parkway plan could be expanded up to 11 lanes, more than sufficient to provide for the traffic anticipated for Oak Hill.

The 290/71 project has not been redesigned since the TxDOT plan of the early ‘80s, making it more superhighway than roadway. None of the aspects of the mid-‘90s study, conducted by former Rep. Sherri Greenberg, were incorporated into the plan.

Wes Burford of the TxDOT promised to provide as much side-by-side information on the four plans as possible by the time CAMPO meets in December. A real comparison of the projects could be more extensive than two month’s work would allow the department to complete, Burford said.

Martinez focuses on traffic law enforcement

Council member says hit-and-run draws attention to city policies

Council Member Mike Martinez doesn’t know exactly what he’s going to do yet about it yet, but a weekend collision involving a hit-and-run driver has focused his attention on the city’s enforcement of traffic laws.

The victims of the accident were those nearest to his heart—Martinez’ son Alejandro, and his parents. As Martinez explained it, on Saturday evening his family was returning from dinner headed eastbound across the overpass at Woodward St. and I- 35. Their vehicle had a green turn arrow and they were in the middle of a left turn onto the northbound frontage road of I-35 when a speeding vehicle ran the red light and hit their truck, slamming them into the bridge and sidewalk. Fortunately, they were all wearing seat belts.

Martinez’ father and son managed to get out of their vehicle but his mother was trapped in the truck until paramedics came and helped her out. Martinez’ son asked paramedics to call his father—who was attending a banquet for electrical workers— because his mother was suffering from high blood sugar and refusing treatment. When the Council Member got to the scene, he convinced his mother to go to the hospital, where she stayed for about four hours, he said.

“The driver of the pick-up that hit my parents jumped out of his vehicle and fled on foot,” he said. Police were working on the case Monday but Martinez was not aware of any new information Monday afternoon.

“I realize that accidents are going to happen,” he said. “We can't prevent all accidents but it certainly makes you want to take a look at our policies and the things we’re trying to do to prevent accidents as we can.”

Martinez said would want to study policies involving “police deployment, particularly traffic enforcement—how many officers we have on the roadways, what our staffing model is for those officers.” Additionally, Martinez said he would be asking questions about matters under the purview of the Public Works Department. The questions he wants to ask include these: “Are we delaying our yellow lights long enough? What is the transition time between light changes?”

“These are things I would think about when we dealt with those issues but not as much as I have in the last couple of days,” he said.

Martinez said Monday that his mother is still emotionally shaken up and bruised but otherwise none of the three suffered any permanent injuries. Still, it was a traumatic event for the whole family.

In an email to Texas Monthly publisher and public safety advocate Mike Levy, Martinez wrote, “My passion for making Austin much safer has also only been solidified due to this personal experience. I have to admit that in some way, I feel ashamed that it has taken such a direct experience to entice such a strong reaction from me, but I do believe that all things happen for a reason. I will not waste time seeking the explanation for the reason this happened. I will now work tirelessly to prevent this and other needless accidents, injuries and deaths that occur on our roads each and every day.” According to Martinez, 54 people have been killed in accidents in the city so far this year.

Anyone with information on the collision should contact APD at 974-5000. Martinez also praised the EMS and police for their help to his family.

©2006 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

First things first . . . Trash pick-up and recycling will slide one day this week to allow Solid Waste Services employees to attend the funeral of a co-worker killed in a traffic accident. So, those whose trash is usually collected on Tuesday will have service on Wednesday and so on through the week . . . Bond election less than a month away . . . Some are anxiously awaiting the November 7 election so they can cast ballots for particular candidates. But at City Hall they have their eyes on the seven bond propositions . . . Bond party tonight . . . Unity PAC, those supporting all seven bond propositions, will open their campaign headquarters at a party beginning at 5:30pm tonight at 7901 Cameron Road, Building 2, 3rd floor (just north of intersection with US 183). A number of Council Members are expected to attend and speak briefly, joining supporters of roads, parks, libraries, affordable housing, open space, the arts, and public safety . . . PAC news. . . Political action committees hoping to raise voter awareness and support for the city's seven bond propositions have until 5pm today to turn in their fundraising and expenditure reports. Unity PAC will report raising $107,000 with $89,000 cash on hand, according to consultant Mark Nathan of Austin Strategies. The five biggest contributors to the PAC are the Downtown Austin Alliance, RECA, Stratus Properties, Constructive Ventures, and Drenner & Golden Stuart Wolff . . . . . Yes on 2 and 3 PAC . . . The political action committee formed specifically to support $229.7 million in bonds for parks, drainage and open space reports raising $19,500. The committee paid political consultant Mike Blizzard of Grassroots Solutions $7,000 and two environmental activist organizations, Clean Water Action and Environment Texas $2,500 and $2,000 respectively. Pamela Reese, who describes herself as retired, contributed $10,000 of that total and a real estate brokerage, Land/Water/Sky of Bandera, gave $5,000. Other contributors include Save Barton Creek Association and the Sierra Club . . . More bond news . . . South Austin Democrats will meet at Opal Divine's Penn Field beginning with a social hour at 5:30pm, business meeting at 6pm and presentations and discussion of the upcoming city bond election. The SAD agenda includes "possible endorsement" of the seven propositions . . . League endorses plug-in hybrids, coal tar sealant ban . . . Council Member Jennifer Kim has returned from a trip to Phoenix, where she sits on the Energy, Environment and Natural Resource Committee of the National League of Cities. She a presented three resolutions the city favors relating to support for the Plug-In Hybrid campaign, zero energy capable homes, and a ban on coal tar sealants. The committee approved all three resolutions . . . Meetings . . . The Planning Commission meeting has been cancelled . . . The MBE/WBE and Small Business Council Subcommittee meets at 4pm in the Boards and Commissions Room at City Hall . . . The Saltillo District Redevelopment Project Community Advisory Grou p meets at 9:30am at the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corp, at 1000 Lydia Street . . . The Robert Mueller Municipal Airport Plan Implementation Advisory Commission meets at 6pm in Room 104 at the Waller Creek Plaza . . . A toxic anniversary . . . Bob Gregory of Texas Disposal Systems in Creedmoor, is noting an anniversary. He says it's been nine years since a load of toxic electronics parts ended up in his landfill, and nine years he has tried to get rid of them. Gregory notes: "Thousands of TDS staff hours have been consumed and close to five million dollars in TDS resources have been spent to protect TDS, its landfill and its neighbors from the failure of the TCEQ, EPA, Penske, Zenith and its parent company LG Electronics to follow state and federal hazardous waste management rules. TDS has been victimized by their failure to follow the law." For more information on the ongoing battle, see http://www.texasdisposal.com. Gregory says the trial date on his lawsuit against the parties was recently delayed to July 9, 2007 . . . Busy board members . . . Board members and the general manager of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District will hold special meetings tonight and tomorrow to discuss proposed changes in the district's rules for drought management. Tonight's meeting is set for 7pm at Sunset Valley City Hall at 3205 Jones Road. Wednesday's meeting at set for 7pm at Buda City Hall, 121 N. Main in Buda. The board will also hold its regular meeting at 6pm Thursday at the district headquarters, 1225 Regal Row in Manchaca . . . Emergency group honored . . . Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez held a ceremony outside City Hall Monday afternoon to honor members of the Community Emergency Response Team. The team is made up of civilian volunteers with special training in first aid and disaster response. "It's these types of volunteers that make our success as a city that much better," Martinez said. One of the first members of CERT, Moses Saldaña, was recognized for his efforts along with Robin Johnson, a CERT volunteer who used her CPR training to help save the life of a co-worker who suffered a heart attack. Classes for a new group of CERT volunteers will begin in January. To learn how you can become a volunteer or for more information, visit http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/oem/volunteer.htm or call (512) 974-0450.

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