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Off to a great start   
There’s a lot happening on the Oak Hill Parkway project. Water quality protection measures were put into place along the highway in state right of way, including several miles of silt fencing, rock filter dams and erosion control logs. These protection measures assist in treating stormwater runoff and limiting sediment from leaving active construction areas.
“TxDOT and Colorado River Constructors (CRC) are committed to protecting the Edwards Aquifer during construction,” said Christiana Astarita, TxDOT project manager. “Installing these water quality best management practices are a priority as we get started with major work.”
The team installs a rock filter dam near the US 290/SH 71 “Y” interchange, one of the many stormwater best management practices being used to protect the Edwards Aquifer during construction.
In advance of permanent bridge construction work, CRC is performing drilling operations along the project corridor. This work will enable us to determine if any karst (voids below ground) features exist at locations of new bridge columns. If a karst feature is identified, the construction team can prepare to undertake proper environmental protections or even adjust the design if necessary.
The project team is now clearing and grading state right of way along US 290 to provide room for the Oak Hill Parkway improvements. Neighbors should expect noise and heavy truck traffic as part of this process. We ask for the community’s patience and understanding as we begin building Oak Hill Parkway.  
Soon, work will begin on retaining walls along US 290 west of Circle Drive, as well as construction of a sound wall east of South View Road. The sound wall will be located north of the homes that back up to US 290 in the Ridgeview neighborhood.
The design team is working on final plans for construction-related lane shifts, closures and detours, which are scheduled to begin in early 2022.
Improvements to the “Y” accelerated 
The reconstruction of the US 290/SH 71 “Y” interchange segment will start about six months earlier than previously scheduled in order to get a head start toward improving the busy intersection.

Currently, signal lights control most traffic movements between the two highways. Once the Oak Hill Parkway is completed, traffic flow will be non-stop between highways on new flyovers. For now, drivers should expect to see major work and lane shifts near the “Y” interchange beginning in early 2022. 

A design-build process is being used to deliver the project. CRC is the contractor performing both design and construction for the Oak Hill Parkway. The process allows CRC to accelerate and prioritize activity as needed to get the work done more efficiently. Shifts in the timing of scheduled activities during the project’s overall timeline should be expected. Be sure to sign up for updates to receive the latest news. 
Progress in photos
For more photos, visit our online gallery
Trained ecologists conduct mandatory bird nesting surveys in state right of way before construction near US 290 and Convict Hill Road.
The project team installed silt fencing and chain link fencing between the Bell Quarry Hill apartments and state right of way. The silt fencing protects water quality, and the chain link fencing is a safety measure separating the construction work area from nearby residences and businesses.
The project team moves equipment into place to perform a drilling operation near William Cannon Drive.
Oak Hill Parkway team provides real-world training opportunity for Oak Hill Fire Department
A unique opportunity provided for emergency service provider

A beneficial way for firefighters to prepare for real-world scenarios and environments is by training in unfamiliar structures. Last week, TxDOT and CRC teamed up with the Oak Hill Fire Department (OHFD) to allow for this type of hands-on training in a building scheduled for demolition for the Oak Hill Parkway project.

OHFD training included basic search, forcible entry, wall breach, hose line work, and roof ventilation. The building, located on US 290 on the west end of the project, has a thick commercial roof with at least four layers, including rubber, plywood, and polystyrene insulation. Breaching the roof gave firefighters invaluable firsthand experience to use the next time they encounter a commercial building fire. 

"We are very grateful to have TxDOT and the Oak Hill Parkway team providing this space for our crews to train during construction so we can prepare for specialized emergency incidents we may encounter," said Oak Hill Fire Chief JJ Wittig. "This training helps us become more proficient in performing critical skills when seconds count."

The building used for the training will be demolished in the next few weeks.
Let’s talk trees
Frequently asked questions regarding trees and the Oak Hill Parkway

Over many years, TxDOT heard from the Oak Hill community that tree preservation is important, and as such, our plan reflects it. The following addresses questions we have received about tree preservation and planting.
Are trees being preserved as part of the project?
Yes. TxDOT is committed to the healthy preservation of many trees on this project and put unique stipulations in the design-build contract as a result, such as requiring CRC to identify additional trees for preservation and to have an arborist on their team.
Several iconic oak trees in the US 290 at William Cannon Drive area will be preserved. They are the Grandmother, Grandfather, Nieces and Beckett Grove trees. TxDOT also identified several tree preservation areas with a multitude of trees in addition to the iconic oaks. This effort included several reviews of the design plan to see where changes could be made to preserve more trees.
On top of that, CRC identified more than 200 other trees that can be saved along the alignment as a result of design optimizations.
Did TxDOT consult with the community about tree preservation?
Yes. TxDOT conducted extensive outreach over several years. Even after the Record of Decision, TxDOT met with multiple groups and identified additional trees to be preserved, which resulted in the removal of the planned trailhead on William Cannon Drive and pulling the previously designed shared-use path out of Williamson Creek. In early 2021, additional trees were identified to be preserved. 
Will TxDOT plant new trees in the corridor?
Yes. We will be planting hundreds of new trees and bushes as part of this project. CRC’s contract calls for Eastern Red Cedar, Arizona Cypress, Cedar Elm, Honey Mesquite, Chinquapin Oak, Lacey Oak, Monterrey Oak, White Oak, Live Oak, Red Oak and Pecan to be planted.

What happens to the trees that are removed?
All the materials are being recycled. Some trees are chipped on site and hauled off in bins. Some trees are hauled off in trucks and chipped at the wood recycler’s facilities. Everything will be repurposed into mulch. The recycler will offer the mulch to stores throughout Texas for resale to the general public.
For more questions and answers about tree preservation,
please check out our online FAQs

Meet the Team: An Interview with Michael Embesi, project arborist

Michael serves as CRC’s arborist. His role is to monitor and care for the hundreds of trees being preserved in the project corridor, especially the six iconic trees near William Cannon Drive. TxDOT required that CRC have an arborist on their team – this is a unique contract stipulation and is directly due to the community’s interest in the preservation of trees in the corridor.
Q: Please tell our readers a little about your experience and your background.
A: I started in Austin in 1988 earning an undergraduate degree at Concordia University. After receiving a graduate degree at New Mexico State, I began work for the City of Austin in 2000. Soon after, I became the City of Austin’s City Arborist and I held that position for 15 years. As the City Arborist, I assessed thousands of proposed developments.
During that time, I fell in love with the city, and I am very aware of the importance of trees to the community. Over the years I have seen our community develop while stressing the importance of a healthy urban forest for Austin.
Since 2020, I have been in private practice as a consulting arborist for Bartlett Tree Experts helping assess impacts private and public projects have on trees and the natural environment.
Q: What are some of the best ways to preserve trees and keep them healthy along a highway?
A: The initial step is to identify and assess the trees that will be preserved. This is done early in the project so trees can be adequately incorporated during the planning process. The iconic trees particularly near William Cannon Drive are great examples. Those trees were identified early on and are being protected. That allows the team to consider how best to construct the project, such as the distance needed to preserve their canopies and root system.
The second step is to protect the trees during construction. A chain link fence is installed to keep equipment away from the tree to preserve the root system and canopy, paying close attention to construction impacts including the prevention of soil compaction.
Q: What special action is being taken to protect the iconic trees at US 290 and William Cannon Drive?
A: We regularly check on the trees, their health and the tree protection systems such as the chain link fencing. The assessments include evaluating the leaf density, leaf color and overall condition of the canopy. The trees are receiving supplemental water. We are monitoring soil moisture levels within the tree protection zone. That is checked at a minimum of every two weeks. The trees are also proactively fertilized on a semi-annual basis and pest and disease is managed on a quarterly basis.
In addition to all the steps above, monitoring each tree is an important step for identifying tree health concerns.  The condition of each tree dictates the type of care that is needed. Once a concern is identified, a timely and accommodating response is needed for the best results.
Opening doors to opportunity on Oak Hill Parkway
With construction underway, the Oak Hill Parkway Project team is reaching out to small, minority and woman-owned businesses about opportunities to play a vital role as a subcontractor over the next several years.
CRC hosted a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) workshop this month. About two dozen attendees representing 10 small businesses met with CRC and exchanged information about potential subcontracting opportunities.
“It was very informative,” said attendee Zenobia Dorman, owner of XBA Commercial Landscaping, who is going through DBE certification with TxDOT. “We had time to learn about the opportunities, how to apply, as well as make valuable connections with the project team.”
CRC is committed to providing opportunities for DBE businesses during construction of the Oak Hill Parkway and hopes to meet or exceed their goal of giving $50 million of work to qualified subcontractors who participate in TxDOT’s program. 

TxDOT’s DBE program was created to provide a level playing field for small, minority and women-owned companies wanting to do business with agencies receiving federal funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). A firm that meets eligibility requirements may apply to become a DBE through the Texas Unified Certification Program (TUCP). More information on the program can be found here:
Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program (
The recent Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) workshop reached out to small, minority and woman-owned businesses about opportunities on the Oak Hill Parkway.
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