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TxDOT proposes interim traffic flow solution for “Y” at Oak Hill

Friday, March 4, 2011 by Michael Kanin

The short-term solution to the traffic nightmare known as the “Y” at Oak Hill apparently comes with something called a Continuous Flow Intersection.


On Thursday, TxDOT brought out a host of city, county, and state officials to announce a series of changes that will – they hope – reduce delays on US 290 from Joe Tanner Lane to FM1826 by 61 percent.


But there’s a catch, says City of Austin Transportation Department Director Robert Spillar. “It doesn’t last.”


According to a fact sheet provided by the Austin Transportation Department, “a Continuous Flow Intersection eliminates the need for separate left turn signals at an intersection, providing more green time for the through (heavier) traffic.”


Workers would install traffic signals and new lanes in both directions ahead of the intersection at William Cannon Drive and US 290. They would do the same for the eastbound portion of the intersection at US 290 and SH 71. There will also be modifications to traffic patterns at the intersections of US 290 and Joe Tanner Lane, Convict Hill Road and FM1826.


It all should, according to Spillar, “dramatically reduce the delay through these intersections.”


By 2020, however, regional growth is expected to outpace the benefits of the new construction. “As demand continues to grow in this area, these improvements will start to max out,” said Spillar. “So, over five or 10 years, that delay reduction will steadily decline.”


Spillar says that TxDOT will begin the process of hunting for a consultant to help with a more permanent solution “if not this Friday, next Friday.” That effort could be an extended one.


“Remember, that process is not only a design process, but an environmental process,” he said. “So it’s going to take a number of years to get through (it). We know that this area has some significant environmental constraints within it … we know that there needs to be an extended discussion. Hopefully, some of these (interim) improvements here will take some of the pressure off of the community so that we can have a reasonable discussion about what the right permanent solution in this area is.”


The interim changes should be complete sometime in 2012. Construction will cost the city $4 million – a sum that was generated by Austin’s November 2010 transportation bond. Staff estimates that drivers will see 770,000 hours of annual delay reduced to 300,000.


“The benefits just in the first year more than pay for the costs of these improvements,” Spillar added. “It’s short-lived – everybody knows this is not the final solution – but the payoff is so good in terms of getting people home faster to their families, getting people faster to their work, we need to do this because it’s the right thing to do.”

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