Author: Gerald W. Dunnivan, Vista Oaks Property Owner
After three years of meetings and negotiations, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has agreed to build a noise abatement wall (Sound Wall) along RM 1431 to reduce the impact of RM 1431 traffic noise on the west side of our Vista Oaks neighborhood. The traffic noise has dramatically increased as a result of two expansions of RM 1431 over the past five years. The most recent expansion, completed in early 2017, moved the high speed westbound traffic lanes of RM 1431 twenty to thirty feet closer to the Vista Oaks properties located on the south side of S. Summercrest Loop and the resulting noise levels have become intolerable. TxDOT and City of Cedar Park consultants failed to include this section of RM 1431 in the environmental studies that were done during the planning and design of the highway expansion.
Over the three year period mentioned above, TxDOT acknowledged that the initial environmental studies were incomplete; commissioned additional studies which confirmed that a serious noise problem did exist; proposed that a Sound Wall be built and solicited, through a balloting process, the approval of the impacted S. Summercrest Loop property owners to build the wall (it was approved by an overwhelming margin of impacted property owners); designed the Sound Wall with considerable input from the representative of most of the impacted property owners (me); worked with United States Fish and Wildlife Service (which was short of critical staff at the time) to insure compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act; and, finally, budgeted $1.1 million for the construction of the wall. At our urging, TxDOT also expedited the installation of a traffic signal at Royal Vista Blvd and RM 1431 in 2016 to address complaints we had received regarding VO residents fear for life and limb as they exited and entered our neighborhood from/to RM 1431.
The Sound Wall will be constructed from Royal Vista Blvd, along the north side of RM 1431, west to the drainage easement just east of the Life Storage facility. The Sound Wall will be located about twenty two feet closer to RM 1431 than our existing brick wall and will, on average, extend about six feet higher. It has been designed by TxDOT consultants to meet TxDOT specifications for noise attenuation, appearance, strength, and durability (see pictures below of a similar Sound Wall built in Pflugerville).
Our Vista Oaks HOA, our VO Municipal Utility District, our VO Impacted Property Owners, and our local government entities will not pay for any part of the cost of the Sound Wall. The entire cost, estimated to be over One Million Dollars, will be borne by TxDOT.
Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) contractors are currently on site relocating utility poles and wires to make way for the Sound Wall. PEC believes this will be completed within 2-3 weeks unless rain makes some part of the site inaccessible. PEC management also has stated that they do not anticipate any lengthy power outages for VO residents during the relocation process.
TxDOT, working with outside consultants, has completed the package of documents and specifications necessary for soliciting bids from their list of approved vendors for the construction of the Sound Wall. The construction project will be advertised for bids during the month of April, 2018 and TxDOT plans to open the bids and notify the low bid vendor at their May, 2018 vendor meeting. That meeting is scheduled for May 1 and 2, 2018. TxDOT will then submit the project to the Texas Transportation Commission for approval which normally takes place at the Commission meeting at the end of the month in which the bids are opened. Following Commission approval, TxDOT and the low bid vendor will enter into a series of standard steps (execute contracts, create and approve shop drawings, etc.) that could take 2 to 3 additional months to complete.
Once the Notice to Proceed is issued by TxDOT, the vendor must then marshal the resources and materials required to construct the wall. As you can see, it will likely be September, 2018 or even later before we see actual “boots on the ground” in the construction effort.
Please email me at email@example.com if you have questions or if I can help further in any way.