by Catherine Judd, RLA, Project Manager

The MoPac 1 project continues to progress. Currently,
environmental studies (including noise and air analyses, traffic studies, etc.)
are being conducted and preparation of the draft environmental assessment is
nearing completion. In response to public comments made at the second round of
open houses in April regarding HOV lanes and general purpose lanes, the project
team is performing additional traffic and noise analyses to study those
options. The team is also studying a potential connection to possible US 183
managed lanes.

The Aesthetics Advisory Committee (AAC) meetings concluded
in August. A copy of the AAC summary
report can be found on the MoPac 1 project website. The project team was fortunate to have active
citizen participation which provided helpful guidance on the various aesthetic
elements of the project (e.g. noise barriers and landscaping elements, etc.).
The group was so dynamic that TxDOT has decided to invite the members to
critique detailed concepts during the detailed design phase.

The next project activity involving the public will be a
series of noise workshops. The project team will divide the approximately seven
miles of potential barriers into 13 segments, and will invite the adjacent
property owners, as well as neighbors, to the workshops to present the
potential barriers. At some point in the future, the adjacent property owners
will then have an opportunity to vote on whether or not they want a noise
barrier built along their property in areas where the walls are determined reasonable
and feasible. Non-adjacent property
owners can provide input but only adjacent property owners can vote. The
majority vote will determine the outcome for each individual barrier. We expect these workshops to occur in early
2008 – check the website for information on the exact dates.

On a related note, construction is nearing completion for
the TxDOT Austin District Sample Noise Barrier and will be available for
viewing soon. The sample barriers are located at the TxDOT Bull Creek campus on
the east side of Bull Creek Road across from the Westminster Manor retirement facility. Please note that this
sample barrier does not represent the designs that would be used for the MoPac
1 project, nor will it demonstrate noise abatement, but will provide a sense of
scale and visual appearance of a representative barrier.

Beyond the noise barrier workshops, it is anticipated that
the environmental document will be submitted to FHWA for review in spring 2008
and an official public hearing following after FHWA has approved the document..

We thank everyone for their continued interest in the unique
and important project.