List of Specific Road Improvement Requests
On Hwy 71, a center turn lane from FM 2322 to the intersection of Highways 281 and 71, along with caution lights at busy intersections and businesses.
Currently, that stretch is a four-lane highway with no turn lane. Massive growth in the area has exacerbated the already dangerous conditions. There have been multiple subdivisions built in and around this stretch of highway in the past decade with many more in the planning stages. The number of new homes so far is in the thousands, and along with that comes a big jump in the number of cars on the road. Also, this population jump also leads to many new businesses springing up along 71, and with each comes another dangerous intersection.
People needing to turn left off the highway into these subdivisions and businesses have little choice other than to stop and wait in the middle of 70mph traffic. The speed limit was lowered a year or two ago along the stretch of hwy between the Pedernales River bridge and Fall Creek Road intersection, but that did little good to rectify the situation - they’re still at a dead stop while traffic speeds past them at highway speeds, all the while being at the mercy of a texting driver who could mow them down, a situation that HAS HAPPENED ALREADY.
Of course this will take years and much planning and effort, but there are many other things that can be done much faster and with little effort or expense, such as:
THINGS THAT CAN BE DONE NOW
(Click on photos to enlarge.)
1. “Super 2” highway with a center turn lane
There are four lanes now. One of those lanes could be turned into a center turn lane that would be alternated every few miles. (More info on Super 2 Highways from TXDOT’s construction manual here.)
On the S-curve where so many fatalities have happened, there could be one lane in each direction with an extra-wide turn lane down the middle. LOTS of room for people to correct swerves and get out of the way of the swervers that don't correct. No one needs to pass anyone else ON those curves, so two lanes in either direction aren't needed.
All this would take would be restriping the road which would be MUCH cheaper and faster than widening it. This suggestion was seriously considered by TXDOT in the past, but for some reason it was scrapped.
Also, grooved pavement on sides of road and in the middle: Those grooves that wake people up and get their attention when they veer off the road. Putting these well before dangerous spots such as the S-curve near Fall Creek Road may avoid someone falling asleep, waking up on the curve, veering off the road there, then overcorrecting and driving into oncoming traffic. Also in the middle if applicable/possible, to wake up drivers as they cross into oncoming lanes. If a left-turn lane is ever installed on that curve, putting them in that lane would be a help as well.
2. Caution lights at Fall Creek Road, Quail Creek Subdivision,
Spicewood Estates subdivision, and other busy intersections
TXDOT's project tracker lists NO plans for caution lights at Quail Creek or Spicewood Estates. The listing for a caution light to be installed at Fall Creek Road says the status is "Finalizing for construction". But TXDOT's Public Information Officer Kelli Reyna said in a Community Impact article in early December, 2016: "Future projects in the Spicewood section of West Hwy. 71 include adding a flashing beacon and safety lighting at Fall Creek Road that will be let out to bid in late 2018..." She doesn't mention Quail Creek or Spicewood Estates. So two years for one to be installed at Fall Creek (bid accepted at end of 2018 or early 2019, construction started no sooner than early 2019). Yet as of December 2016, there is one almost completed at the CR 401 - Hwy 71 intersection.
According to TXDOT's CRIS Query system, between 2010 and present:
- CR 401 intersection: three collisions with one involving a death or incapacitating injuries (one death, five injuries, all in the same wreck)
- Fall Creek Road intersection: FIVE collisions with one involving a death and incapacitating injury (one each, same wreck).
- Quail Creek/Spicewood Estates entrances (in very close proximity to each other): three collisions
Daily traffic counts as of 2014 (latest available data):
- CR 401 intersection: 9012
- Fall Creek Road intersection: 9037
- Quail Creek/Spicewood Estates entrances: 9012
So why was a caution light installed there but it will be two years for one at Fall Creek Road and no plans for one at the Quail Creek/Spicewood Estates Subdivisions entrance?
3. FM 2322 - 71 intersection - Protected left turn
Add light fixtures at the existing stoplight and program a protected left turn (red for oncoming traffic while green for those turning left from eastbound onto 2322). Right now, the left turn is especially dangerous due to no protected left turn and visibility of oncoming traffic being compromised: immediately after that intersection the roadbed rises on a hill and curves northwards (to the left in the photo below), making it difficult to see oncoming traffic coming at you while you are turning.
4. Right turn lanes at FM 2322, Paleface Ranch Road, and Spur 191 stoplights
Other busy intersections than these three, intersections that are currently unlighted, could also use right turn lanes - Fall Creek Road, CR 413, Poodie's, and the new Chevron station nearer to Old Spicewood "Proper" to name a few. There are none there currently at any of these intersections, so drivers use the shoulder which is dangerous since a driver in the right lane can decide to turn at the last minute using the same on-the-shoulder method and cause a collision with someone already on the shoulder.
Simply turning the existing shoulders into right turn lanes would be easy and quick. Existing shoulders are shown in the photos below. L to R: Spur 191, Paleface Ranch Road, 2322. Notice the car using the shoulder as a right turn lane in the third photo.
Also, the last photo of the approach to the 2322 intersection: notice how traffic at the light is invisible. When there is a backup of cars caused by someone making a "legal" right turn using the existing lanes, an oncoming vehicle seeing only a green light would not be able to see a line of slowed cars held up by someone turning right, resulting in a rear-end chain-reaction collision at 65mph.
5. S-curves 1/2 mile west of Fall Creek Road -
More adequate warning signs and lowered speed limit
- dangerously banked double-curve (S-curve) with such banking leading to overcorrections
- high speed limit RAISED for westbound lanes entering the set of curves, raised to 70mph from 65mph
- severely inadequate and absent warning signage
Some solutions: Lighted "S-curve" warning signs instead of current single-curve ones, warning signs placed before curves on both sides, intersection signs,
The solutions for now, until a center turn lane can be installed:
- Lighted S-curve warning signs: Dangerous curves signs with blinking yellow lights are needed before both sides of those set of curves - "S curve" signs, not just "one-curve" ones as it is now.
- More arrow warning signs like the curve by Poodie's Roadhouse would be helpful.
- And lower the speed limit through it - raising the speed limit to 70mph for the westbound lanes entering the curves, as it is now, is ludicrous. This plus lack of warning signs gives the false impression that there is nothing to worry about.
Another thing that could be done in conjunction with the Super-2 configuration: make traffic one-lane in each direction leaving an extra-wide center lane to separate oncoming traffic even more.
Those curves are extra dangerous because they slope back and forth unusually, making it hard for people not used to them to navigate them, leading to overcorrections into oncoming traffic. Add in the surprise of no warning and it’s a disaster there. I can’t help but think that’s contributed to the numerous wrecks that have happened on those curves.
Another more involved suggestion brought up by many people is a physical barrier (one suggestion is a “crash cushion” or "Jersey wall") between the two directions of traffic, IF this wouldn't contribute to more collisions (Sometimes people veer into the oncoming lanes and correct without incident, therefore would a barrier such as this turn those near-misses into wrecks? If not, then one needs to be installed.). Here is a video of one barrier that wouldn't contribute to more collisions. And here is a shorter video of the same type of barrier.
6. Bee Creek Road, Pedernales Summit Parkway, and West Cypress Hills -
Lighted warning signs for invisible stoplights
Bee Creek Road: The “extra light” mounted atop a pole to the south of the stoplight itself is sometimes invisible, sometimes because it blends in with the Pedernales Summit light and sometimes because it's hidden behind a hill.
Pedernales Summit Parkway (Sweetwater): This stoplight isn't visible from the approach from Bee Creek Road. With the speed limit being 65mph, this makes it dangerous when people make the Bee Creek Road light only to come up on cars stopped at the Pedernales Summit light.
West Cypress Hills: Invisible from the eastbound lanes until you are right up on it, too late to slow enough to not hit a line of stopped cars.
Warning signs with blinking caution lights (see fourth row of photos below for examples) would go a long way toward avoiding more wrecks at these intersections, especially at Bee Creek Road. There have been MANY collisions there already, numerous fatal.
Below are photos of lighted stoplight warning signs of the type that are needed at the intersections above. Ironically, these four signs are at four different intersections that are fully visible from the warning signs, and in some cases visible long before. To repeat: There are warning signs for fully visible stoplights, but NO warning signs at invisible stoplights.