SLIDESHOW: [A] A supporter of the proposed Texas 45 SW tollway speaks to Texas Department of Transportation officials during a July 29 public hearing at Bowie High School in Austin. HAYS FREE PRESS PHOTO by MOSES LEOS III. [B] SAN MARCOS MERCURY MAP by BRAD ROLLINS
by BRAD ROLLINS
AUSTIN — More than 600 people crowded into a south Austin high school cafeteria last week to weigh-in on a draft environmental report on Texas 45 Southwest, a controversial toll road that would connect the southern terminus of MoPac Boulevard in Austin with FM 1626 in northern Hays County.
Frustrated by decades of delays and diversions, a substantial majority of Hays and Travis county residents who turned out for the July 29 public hearing enthusiastically supported construction of Texas 45 SW and generally endorsed the report’s findings that the road will not cause significant environmental harm.
“It’s unconscionable for Austin to allow for the status quo to continue. … As we get to next phase, I am feeling more comfortable that we’ll have the issues ironed out,” said Mary Kelly-Dillon, an officer of the Hays County Oaks Homeowners Association.
Geologists working for the state have identified seven karst features — porous limestone outcroppings through which the Edwards Aquifer is recharge by rainfall — within the road’s planned footprint or near enough to potentially be contaminated, according to TxDOT’s draft environmental study. In addition, the mouth of Flint Ridge Cave lies 150 feet outside the road’s right-of-way.
However, TxDOT determined that impacts to water quality will be “negligible” both during construction and when the road is completed through the use of “permeable friction course” pavement, water quality ponds, vegetative filter strips and grassy swales. A 2,900-foot earthen berm built along the road will divert runoff to basins outside Flint Ridge Cave’s watershed and eventually discharged into Bear Creek, the report states.
These measures will remove 90 percent of sediment and pollutants, according to the draft environmental report, which is undersigned by project engineer Lucas Short and TxDOT environmental affairs director Carlos Swonke.
“Total suspended solids loadings after construction would be lower than native existing conditions … due to proposed water quality treatment measures. Potential for pollutants in stormwater runoff from the construction site and completed roadway to enter the aquifer and potential for changes in recharge rates to the aquifer resulting from increases in impervious cover would be minor,” the report states.
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