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MoPac Man Blog

This is Steve Pustelnyk, or MoPac Man.  For the next two and a half years I’ll be immersed in construction of the MoPac Project. Around the clock I’ll be monitoring the project, providing important updates, interacting with the community and working on behalf of neighbors and drivers to make the project as painless as possible. But that won’t be easy.  We are going to be working a lot at night and that could mean some sleepless nights. And, while we are not supposed to close any lanes between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., we all know that traveling the corridor won’t be as smooth as usual. Plus, there could be some rare situations where something goes wrong with construction and lanes have to be closed when they shouldn’t be. Maybe I should just apologize profusely now.

On the bright side, in just a few years many residents will be enjoying a little less noise thanks to the 7 miles of sound walls that will be constructed. Cyclists and pedestrians will have better facilities and best of all those of you who use MoPac will have a better ride. The new Express Lanes will increase the capacity of MoPac and give bus riders, van poolers and individual drivers a way to bypass congestion and get to their destination without delay.  In the short term the Express Lane will also reduce congestion in the existing lanes improving mobility for everyone who drives the corridor.

Throughout the project I’ll be sharing my thoughts and experiences here on the MoPac Man blog. I look forward to hearing from you here on the blog, via twitter, on our Facebook page or through one of our more traditional communication channels such as the 24 hour hotline.  Our team is here to serve you.

14 Responses

  1. Leslie says:

    I was not given a vote regarding Sound Wall #3, which will have serious adverse psychological consequences for my family, my neighbors, the young baseball players at the Little League fields on Great Northern Blvd, and the Montessorri students on the street. Those of us very close to Great Northern and with a view of the street will be directly impacted by the wall, but were not included in CTRMA’s vote of home owners. Our stretch of road, unlike that south of Bullard, will have a view of the wall, which will attract taggers, and we will lose our view of the trees, the wildflowers, and the sunset. In addition to these and many other issues, we are very concerned about the content of the guaranteed grafitti–how will we explain it to the young children? We did not choose to live by a 20-foot high wall placed a mere few feet from the neighborhood street. This wall needs to be next to MoPac, not our street.

  2. Louis Laves-Webb says:

    I’m a resident where the proposed sound wall #3 will be constructed. The wall is scheduled to be 20 feet high blocking not only the traffic, but also reducing the neighborhoods green space and shortening the sunset by about 2 hours… Many of our neighbors do not support the construction of sound wall #3… I may be reached at ganoov@att.net or 512 914-6635.

    • MoPac Man says:

      The Mobility Authority is implementing the sound wall as required by the approved Federal Environmental Assessment for the MoPac Improvement Project. The wall voting process was conducted in accordance with federal and state guidelines. The project team held numerous sound wall meetings and open house meetings and was up front about the pros and cons of sound walls. The Mobility Authority is aware of the concerns regarding graffiti and we will be working with the community to ensure graffiti does not become an issue on the wall.

      • Leslie says:

        This is on the Federal Highway Administration’s web site about sound walls:
        http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/noise/noise_barriers/design_construction/keepdown.cfm

        “…Negative reactions from residents have included a restriction of view, a feeling of confinement, a loss of air circulation, a loss of sunlight and lighting, and poor maintenance of the barrier. Motorists have sometimes complained of a loss of view or scenic vistas and a feeling of being “walled in” when traveling adjacent to barriers.

        Are Residents’ Views Considered?

        A major consideration in the design of a noise barrier is its visual impact on the surrounding area. A tall barrier near a one-story, single family, detached residential area can have a negative visual effect. …”
        [and]
        “The visual character of noise barriers in relationship to their environmental setting should be carefully considered. In general, it is desirable to locate a noise barrier approximately four times its height from residences and to provide landscaping near the barrier to avoid visual dominance.

        Noise barriers should reflect the character of their surroundings as much as possible. It is always desirable to preserve aesthetic views and scenic vistas, to the extent possible.”

      • Jim Worley says:

        A federal environmental assessment sounds to me like some kind of program that should take humans into consideration as an equal part of the surroundings as whatever was actually studied. And since the primary descriptor of the wall has to do with sound, one would suppose the feds interest is in the potential danger and damage to human hearing. Which would imply the necessity of having discussions with humans who may be affected to find out what should be done based one what damage has already occurred (which I seriously doubt.) In the three years I have lived on Great Northern I recall no such inquiries of me or the 35 others who call their address GNB. I can’t speak for those who live on corner lots next to GNB but if you look at a map you will see there are fewer such domiciles (about 28) than there are in the apartment buildings in which I live.

        If you are acting of U.S. Federal authority to represent the legitimacy of this unwanted structure then I would ask that you provide proof that you have diligently researched all aspects that would reasonable be considered part of an Environmental Assessment you claim as basis for ‘requiring’ this waste of American citizens’ money. I don’t see that you have.

        If you personally cannot defend it entirely and satisfactorily I would ask and expect that you would step away from your public role. And if you personally cannot defend what it is you are accepting tax money to be doing, I would ask and expect that you would cease efforts immediately and find the persons who will take responsibility for this debacle.

        By the way, I am a non-voter by choice. And just as I refuse to accept the cliche that I have the right to remain silent at the risk of losing that “right” in certain circumstances, I do not accept that you may re-engineer my living environment simply because I decline to take the action of contributing a voice on any other matter beside this one by voting. I live here. That’s enough to establish my importance in being considered personally which I have not. Nor have 35 others who live within 200 feet of me — the only group of residents who can claim their address to be on GNB.

        We must not agree on what the term “up front” means. To me it means someone going out of their way to inform me of matters that concern me. It does not mean taking action without my knowledge and then justifying it by saying there was a meeting to which I was not invited. I would wager that not a single individual within walking distance would recognize your face if they saw you in the Post Office.

        Jim Worley
        6811 GNB
        jimworley77@gmail.com

        >>clip
        The Mobility Authority is implementing the sound wall as required by the approved Federal Environmental Assessment for the MoPac Improvement Project. The wall voting process was conducted in accordance with federal and state guidelines. The project team held numerous sound wall meetings and open house meetings and was up front about the pros and cons of sound walls. The Mobility Authority is aware of the concerns regarding graffiti and we will be working with the community to ensure graffiti does not become an issue on the wall. – See more at: http://www.mopacexpress.com/news/blog/mopac-man-blog/#sthash.7RYOqb4W.dpuf
        <<clip

  3. carri says:

    Allandale is definitely not happy about this. 2 recent neighborhood polls indicate that 75-85% of voters do not want this wall built along Great Northern Blvd, instead calling for the barrier #3 to run only from 2222 to Bullard Dr. along the section where voters overwhelmingly approved the wall. We think this is a reasonable, fair solution; CTRMA disagrees and insists they HAVE to build this wall all the way to Stoneway/Far West even though we don’t want it by a strong majority.

    Those workshops in 2011 were largely attended by concerned residents who didn’t ultimately get any say in whether the walls were built because only first row property owners got a vote. And all of the voters in 2011 were not fully informed of the actual height and location of the wall before they voted, so how could they even cast informed votes? Many of them thought it would be along the MoPac lanes, not right next to a neighborhood street. The section of sound wall #3 along Great Northern Blvd is the ONLY wall section in the City of Austin right of way along a popular neighborhood street (as opposed to along the MoPac lanes on TxDOT property where every other section is being built).

    Leslie is right, the FHWA guidelines clearl say that neighborhood’s views SHOULD be given a more important consideration in this process, including reassessing neighborhood opinions throughout the process, because we have to look at this every single day once it is built. The vote of a few under-informed homeowners 2 years ago should not control in a situation where CURRENT, INFORMED voters who own those 15 voting properties clearly indicate that a MAJORITY of them DO NOT WANT THIS WALL.

    For this Barrier #3, it had no mathematical chance of getting voted down because of the way the vote was designed. The Barrier is over a mile long & was voted on as a single unit, even though there are 2 very different landscapes traversed in that mile. Treating them as one unit was unfair and a mistake which CTRMA refuses to admit, hiding behind claims that they carried out the process correctly. Correctly carried out or not, the process itself was FLAWED and produced an inequitable result for the homes along Great Northern, many of which face the wall, who were outnumbered 2-to-1 by homes that back up to this wall.

    Honestly, this project has started & stopped so many times over the last 10 years it is no wonder residents missed the workshops & notices or ignored them as just another false start on a MoPac project that they’d been hearing about off & on for a decade. How was anyone to know that it would gain any traction and actually happen this time?? Now that everyone is paying attention we are being told it’s too late to stop “progress” even though it would save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars! There’s something VERY wrong with this if this is how our government machinery works!

  4. Carolyn says:

    Fact: CTRMA was asked to treat their LONGEST and HIGHEST sound wall differently in 2011 (split it into two to reflect the topography and homes). CTRMA refused.

    Fact: Communication was just plain unacceptable where it counted the MOST.
    The ‘voters’ were not informed of Sound Wall specifics. CTRMA hides behind “Sound Wall Workshops” and digital signs on Mopac. Lots of $$$$$$ spent. If you choose to have a couple dozen ‘voters’ represent thousands of people in a neighborhood – hire a 23 year old intern to track the ‘voters’ down and have a brief conversation with them. THAT is effective and cheap.

    Fact: Residents don’t want Sound Wall #3 north of Bullard. CTRMA feels ‘obligated’ to build.

    Sad.

  5. carri says:

    Sure there was a workshop & some people attended, including many non-voters who care about the situation but who had no ability to vote on the wall because they were not first row property owners.

    My problem lies in that SW#3 was voted on as a single unit, lumping 30 voters south of Bullard who will obviously want a wall “behind their property” in with 15 voters north of Bullard (representing many other homeowners who will have to stare at this wall out their windows each day) who may not want a wall IN FRONT OF their property and along a popular neighborhood street.

    Why is there no procedural mechanism to acknowledge the different interests of these 2 voting populations and why was there no willingness to separate them for voting purposes once CTRMA was made aware of this obvious distinction prior to the vote? The whole point of breaking the vote up into the many segments along the entire corridor is for those segments to be voted on by the relevant homeowners in the area. By conducting this as a single vote, the voters along Great Northern Blvd. were completely disenfranchised.

    SW#3 is twice the length of any other section at over a mile long. Unlike any other section, it covers a lot of territory. By conducting the voting as a single unit, you did not offer the residents along Great Northern a fair say in whether this wall got built or not. They were outnumbered and predestined rendered totally irrelevant by the process you are so devoted to following & defending. Even if EVERY SINGLE home along GNB had voted against it, there was no way for those 15 homes to ever outnumber the 30 homes that back up to the wall.

    Now, a person-by-person poll of these voting home shows that 8 of them strongly oppose the construction. This is not surprising as the similarly situated voters for SW#2, who also would have faced the wall l in the way those 15 other homes do, and who were informed through neighborhood efforts door-to-door, they voted down SW#2. Those door-to-door efforts had no likelihood of any impact on the SW#3 voting because those homes were so unfairly outnumbered.

    This just totally stinks. You’re saying you’re stuck building this thing, even though a majority in every poll taken does not want it, based on your having followed a process; but that process was flawed and did not have any chance of accurately assessing & incorporating the will of the homeowners along GNB. Other homeowners along the corridor had a fair right to be heard, but these homeowners did not. They were run roughshod over by a process that left them outnumbered among very differently situated voters, with no chance of their opinions counting for anything in the final outcome. It totally stinks.

    Who do we have to lobby to get this broken process changed & fixed?

  6. Tim Damron says:

    Regarding current plans for sound wall #3. At the Allandale Neighborhood Association meeting Sept 26, 2013, CTRMA representatives indicated landscaping would occur to mitigate the aesthetic impact of having mature trees removed from Great Northern Blvd and replaced with a 20 foot wall, set back about 6 ft from the curb. I presume in the 10+ years of CTRMA existence, they have been involved in the development of quite a few tall vertical surfaces, sound walls included. As was requested at the ANA meeting, can you point us toward an existing tall (20ft) vertical surface in the central Texas area where we can see that the CTRMA has landscaped in a manner comparable to what we can expect for the landscaping of the wall in our neighborhood ?

    I assume that sound wall #3 is not entitled to special or extraordinary landscaping from CTRMA beyond what you normally do, so I just want you to point us toward some of your comparable work so that we can we have a visual example of what you are referring to with regards to your landscaping plans.

    • MoPac Man says:

      Our 183A project has enhanced landscaping that receives care from a dedicated landscape maintenance contractor. There is not sound wall specific landscaping along the 183A project, so there is nothing directly comparable that I can refer you to. As indicated at the neighborhood meeting, the design-build contract for the MoPac Improvement Project does provide for enhanced landscaping in the area along wall #3.

      • Leslie says:

        What will grow between a hot 20 foot wall and a paved road with pipes and utilities under the ground and in an extreme drought? COA will be responsible for maintenance once the certificate of completion is handed over. What input has the City had into the vegetation and their responsibilities with respect to keeping it alive? Please name some of the vegetation being considered. Thank you.

  7. Jim Worley says:

    Mr. Mopac Wallman, if you are exclusively an advocate for the directives of the government, I expect to assistance from you. But I would like to know that from you directly to avoid wasting my time reading more from you. On the other hand if you consider yourself a citizen advocate I would like you to explore the possibility of playing a lead role in filing a lawsuit and injunction against the authorities that have not performed due diligence in deciding this matter of a boondoggle project. The issue of human hearing is only one aspect of it which has not been adequately addressed. But it is a good starting point. Do you ‘hear’ me?

    Jim Worley
    jimworley77@gmail.com

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