Author: Gerald W. Dunnivan, Vista Oaks Property Owner

Update October 3, 2018

The short version of this update is that we are still on schedule and still expect on site work to begin in October.  A Right of Entry document, to allow TxDOT and it’s contractors access to the Vista Oaks landscape easement, was handled quickly by our HOA Board of Directors and signed by our Board President.  After lengthy delays, Time Warner/Spectrum finally began work this past weekend to move their cables to the new PEC utility poles that were installed months ago.  Finally, TxDOT and I have reviewed wall panels produced by the sound wall contractor using the actual molds (formliners) that will be used to precast our wall panels.  They have the same deep, highly visible, limestone pattern on both sides of the wall and I think Vista Oaks property owners, especially the property owners with property backing up to the sound wall, will be very pleased.

A few details of events along the way follow for those of you who are closely tracking the project:
You probably remember that I mentioned in my early August update that TxDOT was requesting a Right of Entry document from our HOA Board of Directors. The document was discussed at the July 31st 2018 Board meeting and Director Pat Cassidy offered a resolution to send the document to the HOA attorney for legal review. Pat’s resolution also authorized our Board President to sign the document once the legal review was complete. I am happy to tell you that every Director present at the meeting voted in the affirmative and the resolution was swiftly implemented.  Our property manager, Teffani Davis, handled the interface with our HOA attorney and the legal review was completed in record time.  Our HOA President, Glenda Rutten, then signed the document and forwarded it to TxDOT. All this was done in a very expeditious way.  A big thank you to Glenda Rutten, Teffani Davis, and Pat Cassidy.

In my August update, I also told you that Pedernales Electric Co-Op had completed the move of their electric wires to the new utility poles and that we were waiting on Time Warner (now Spectrum) to move their cables.  Believe it or not we are still waiting on Time Warner/Spectrum and have been since late May.  Following the exchange of harsh words over the past couple of weeks, we finally saw some action from Time Warner/Spectrum this past weekend ( see below picture from Saturday, September 29, 2018).

They say they will have their wires moved by the end of the week. We will see. If they do not finish up soon, their work could delay the start of work by the sound wall construction contractor.

Within the past couple of weeks, TxDOT Management and I looked at sound wall panel mockups made from the same molds (they are actually called formliners) that will be used to make our wall panels. The mockups were only about 5 feet long whereas our panels will be 20 feet long. I think you will be pleased with the simulated limestone pattern on the panels. The original plan was to mold a highly visible limestone pattern deep into the concrete on the side of the panel facing RM 1431 and to stamp the pattern into the panel on the side facing the property owners. This means that the side of the wall panels facing the property owners would have a pattern but it would not be as deeply cut into the panel and therefore would not be as close in appearance to a natural limestone wall as the RM 1431 side would be. The mockups we reviewed had the same deep pattern on both sides of the wall panels so our panels should be pretty nice even when viewed from property owners backyards. (see pictures below).

I’m told that the first signs of on site activity by the wall construction contractor will be the placement of barricades and the implementation of erosion control measures such as installing silt control fences. This will be followed by some relatively moderate grading and excavation as the wall location is leveled and prepared for the drilling and pouring of the sound wall post bases. Please keep your fingers crossed that the contractor does NOT penetrate an underground cave when the post holes are drilled. As you know, this would almost surely cause a lengthy delay as TxDOT and federal US Fish and Wildlife Biologists leave no stone un-turned searching for the presence of endangered species.

Please email me at gerald.dunnivan@yahoo.com if I can answer any questions or add anything further at this time. Please keep in mind that any projected timeline comes with the usual “weather permitting” and “unforeseen circumstances” caveats and let me know quickly, once construction begins, if issues arise or if you see anything that concerns you..

Thank you.

Gerald Dunnivan

Update June 4, 2018

The Sound Wall project continues to move forward on the schedule outlined in my initial post.

Pedernales Electric Cooperative has finished installing all the new utility poles.  The picture below shows PEC sub-contractors installing the final new pole just east of Royal Vista Blvd.

The new electricity lines have also been installed on the poles.  The next step is for the telecom and cable companies to move their wires from the old poles to the new poles.  Once this is complete, PEC will have all the old poles removed which will clear the area where the Sound Wall will be installed.  Pole removal should not take more than a few days once the telecom and cable lines are moved.

Texas Department of Transportation continues to make their commitments as also outlined in my previous post.  True to their word, TxDOT advertised the Sound Wall project during the month of April, soliciting bits from potential wall construction contractors.  Eight qualified contractors responded with construction bids ranging from just over $800,000 to just under $1, 800,000.  See bid tabulation:

TxDot advised SB Contractors that they were the low bidder in early May and TxDOT staff prepared the necessary documents to secure Texas Transportation Commission approval to award the construction contract to SB Contractors.  The Commission approved the award at their regularly scheduled meeting on May 24, 2018.  TxDOT management and staff are now working with SB Contractors to draft and execute a contract covering the scope of the work to be done.  TxDOT estimates it will take 30 to 60 days to finalize the contract and expects that we should see equipment beginning work on site in about 90 days. Wouldn’t it be great to get a more quiet and tranquil neighborhood as a Christmas present this year?

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.

Current Status

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 gerald.dunnivan@yahoo.com if you have questions or if I can help further in any way.