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The Calm Before the Storm

When it comes to the MoPac Improvement Project, I feel like we are experiencing the calm before the storm. There’s been some activity in the form of survey crews, drilling rigs and nighttime lane closures. There have been a few news articles and neighborhood events, but it’s still sunny and everything feels normal. Yet, behind the scenes dozens of people are hard at work gearing up for construction to begin and when it does life along MoPac is going to change. Ultimately we’ll have new Express Lanes and greater mobility on MoPac, plus less roadway noise thanks to sound walls. But, in the meantime construction looms.

MIP_GroundbreakingPhoto

Drilling rig prepares to break ground for the MoPac Improvement Project.

The biggest hint that something is brewing came this week when we held a ceremonial groundbreaking. Soon signs will be going up in the corridor notifying drivers about the project, and neighborhood residents will be getting MoPac Man postcards in the mail with a magnet to help remind them how to get in touch with us if they need to. A high-profile newspaper advertisement is also coming in the next few days. The goal is to make sure as many people as possible know what to expect before the first bulldozer rolls into the corridor.

Right now the next big event on our agenda will be a “Meet the Contractor Open House” on November 12 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at O. Henry Middle School. Our expert construction team will be on hand that night with a lot of displays; ready to answer questions about how the project may impact nearby homeowners, businesses and drivers who travel the corridor.

If you can’t make the Open House, we always welcome visitors to our project office at 1901 West Braker Lane, Building D, Suite 200. We are just east of Metric Drive and across from the Post Office. Plus, we now have a project hotline at 512-270-5000. Call us anytime day or night and someone will be there to take your call. If it’s an emergency we’ll respond immediately. If it’s a simple question and it’s the middle of the night, we’ll get back to you the next morning.

We also have our web site, smart phone application, MoPac Radio at 800 am, a Twitter feed, email alerts, text alerts and Facebook page, all designed to keep you up to date on the project.  This is important because as I said at the outset, a storm is brewing. By November we will see an increasing number of people working in the corridor and by the second week of December full-blown construction will be underway between RM 2222 and US 183. That means drivers will soon be experiencing lane changes, construction barriers and night-time lane closures. Through it all we’ll be doing everything we can to keep traffic moving as smoothly as possible.

Nearby residents may experience nighttime construction work including bright lights and increased noise. We’ll try to minimize the impacts, but I don’t want to sugarcoat things. At times during the project things could get unpleasant.  That’s why I’ve saved up a lot of vacation time.  Just kidding! I’ll be there throughout trying to do what I can to ease the pain and expedite the project. The storm is scheduled to pass in less than two years, which on geologic highway construction time is just the blink of an eye. So I beg you to keep that in mind as we embark on this incredible journey together. And remember, A Better MoPac is just around the corner!

7 Responses

  1. Tommy Davis says:

    MoPac man – sound wall 3 was placed in the city of austin ROW to mitigate the train noise, correct? So is there even a single study conducted by txdot or CTRMA modeling the effect of the 20 foot wall on train noise?

    If not, then why is it there, instead of in the mopac ROW, adjacent to the mopac noise source where it would be most effective at mitigating traffic noise? The placement in city ROW of the longest (by two times) and highest sound wall, and the city’s assumption of ownership shifts significant perpetual costs from CTRMA and Txdot to the city of austin (maintenance, graffiti abatement, legal liability, replacement cost, moving utilities, etc) . That’s great for CTRMA, not so much for the citizens who could be using the 80 or 100k per year in costs on something other than a wall placed on a hunch.

    Did you guys even consider building the wall in mopac ROW? Why was this one, most expensive, wall the only one built 150 to 200 feet /away from/ the noise source the federal and state rules you cite require you to mitigate.

    If I’m wrong and there was even one study justifying the placement along city ROW, please identify it and I’ll eat my humble pie.

    • MoPac Man says:

      The wall was placed at its current location based on input from residents. Per federal environmental law applicable to highways, we were required to analyze highway noise and to mitigate it where reasonable and feasible. If we had placed the wall on the other side of the train tracks and closer to MoPac the analysis would have still been the same. Only the highway noise impacts would have been analyzed, even though there might have been consequences related to the train noise.

      During the noise study process we could have found that the wall was not reasonable or feasible for a number of reasons such as an inability to adequately reduce highway noise levels. Even if the train noise was unbearable for residents, if the wall didn’t meet the reasonable and feasible tests for reducing highway noise we would have been prevented from building it as part of the project.

      This of course was not the case. The wall was determined to be reasonable and feasible based on all of the criteria.

      I should add that train noise exists through the southern end of the project and it, or any other extraneous noise sources were not part of the analysis for any of the sound walls.

      • Tommy Davis says:

        That was a straightforward answer, and I appreciate it.

      • Leslie says:

        What input from residents? Which residents? You received a lot of input in 2011 opposing placement in COA ROW. Did the mayor’s buddy who lives several blocks from MoPac tell you the neighbors wanted the wall on our adored green space? We didn’t give you that input. Show us your paper trail.

  2. carri says:

    So the “input from residents” was enough to get the wall moved into Allandale and treated completely differently than every other section of sound wall, but the input from the residents who did not then and do not now want a wall along Great Northern Blvd, and from those who requested that the vote to be more fairly conducted to truly determine whether first row property owners along Great Northern had their fair say, can be completely dismissed and ignored for the entirety of the last 2.5 years? These are not new complaints, these were raised 2+ years ago and the mobility authority has never addressed them.

    How many “residents” recommended that you move the wall into the neighborhood? One or two? Three or four? How far do they live from Great Northern Blvd? And how many neighbors are now crying foul & being ignored because you say it is too late in your process to listen to them? At least 8 of the 14 actual first-row property owners who you claimed “support” from (not counting AISD/Gullet) along Great Northern have signed forms that have been provided to you documenting that they DO NOT WANT THIS WALL BUILT ACROSS FROM THEIR HOMES. I agree with Leslie, produce your paper trail.

    Why can’t the authority put some heads together to avoid this absurdity of building a wall for people who don’t want it because a few people from somewhere else recommended it and then you made it impossible to vote it down? Get together with the City and FIX THIS or the City will be coming in and tearing this wall down in 2 years’ time & Great Northern will be left a scarred landscape with no trees. How much will it cost the City to tear this down & replace all of these mature trees 2 years from now?

    Leave the train noise out of it, build the wall along MoPac or only build the southern part that will be hidden behind all of those homes that people truly want it. Leave Great Northern Blvd. alone please; y’all have already given our neighborhood enough headaches.

    • MoPac Man says:

      Per the request of your group’s attorney/neighbor we previously provided all documentation associated with the environmental study.

      • Leslie says:

        We are asking you to show us documentation to support your claim that public input was the impetus for placing the wall in the City ROW in place of our mature trees and green space. You are skirting the issue.

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