Texas 71 crashes, complaints prompt TxDOT to fix stretch of highway

STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY

Several recent traffic accidents, including a fatal collision Feb. 20, on Texas 71 in the area of Bee Creek Road in Travis County prompted the Texas Department of Transportation to launch resurfacing upgrades. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

Several recent traffic accidents, including a fatal collision Feb. 20, on Texas 71 in the area of Bee Creek Road in Travis County prompted the Texas Department of Transportation to launch resurfacing upgrades. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

TRAVIS SETTLEMENT — When Sari Pearce pulls onto Texas 71 from her home just west of Bee Cave, she feels on edge.

“Even before the day of the fatality, there were other accidents,” said Pearce, a resident of Travis Settlement, located just west of Bee Creek Road.

She and her son’s school bus start off on the same route on the highway each weekday morning.

“This is a dangerous lane,” she said of where she witnessed a recent collision. “I got really upset.”

On Feb. 20, near Bee Creek Road, 64-year-old Raul Rivas Rodriguez of Austin died when the 2008 Ford F-150 pickup truck he was driving skidded sideways into oncoming traffic on a rain-slicked Texas 71 and struck another vehicle. He died at the scene.

The wreck joined a string of fatalities in that area that involved Highland Lakes residents. In October 2006, Marble Falls Area EMS paramedic Eric Hanson, 26, and Troy McVey of Spicewood died when the ambulance Hanson was driving and the truck McVey was driving collided. Then, in February 2008, 16-year-old Marble Falls High School student Randall Hibler and two other teens — one from Austin and the other from Waco — died in an accident in the Bee Creek Road area of Texas 71.

On Feb. 22, vehicles lined up along Texas 71 near Bee Creek Road, awaiting crews to clear the scene of one of a string of recent collisions on the highway. Facebook photo

On Feb. 22, vehicles lined up along Texas 71 near Bee Creek Road, awaiting crews to clear the scene of one of a string of recent collisions on the highway. Facebook photo

“On Wednesday (Feb. 21) at 10:45 a.m., the road (in the same area) was wet, and, just to the left of me on the eastbound road, there was a white Suburban truck that had skidded a few feet away, and he started spinning counter-clockwise,” Pearson said. “We were all going slow because of the fatal accident the day before. I was just freaking out.”

During the day, Pearce and her neighbors built momentum with a social media campaign that inundated the Texas Department of Transportation with calls and emails about issues on that stretch of Texas 71.

The effort gained support from residents in adjacent subdivisions, including Sweetwater and West Cypress Hills. A number of them had expressed concerns for years, according to residents.

As a result, on Feb. 22, TxDOT dispatched crews to that part of the highway and began upgrades from Bee Creek Road east to the Pedernales Summit Parkway, just east of Bee Cave.

A TxDOT official confirmed the work coincided with “complaints” from residents.

“Our staff is also working on issuing a construction contract to re-establish the cross slope of the roadway as needed to drain surface water and to repave the highway between FM 2322 and Uplands Ridge Drive in Bee Cave,” according to a statement from Christopher Bishop of TxDOT. “We are placing message boards advising people to slow down and use caution while driving in this area.”

The TxDOT work has provided a sense of relief for concerned residents.

“I think they finally heard us,” Pearce said. “How many cars does it have to damage. I’m glad they listened.”

connie@thepicayune.com

6 Responses to “Texas 71 crashes, complaints prompt TxDOT to fix stretch of highway”

  1. Monique says:

    The road does not cause the accident, the operator of the vehicle does. People are not watching where they are going and are distracted. The road conditions also are big factor, such as when it is raining you cannot go 70.

    Also we have so many moving in and thinking they can drive like they did from another state, and that is not possible

    • Chris says:

      Nope, this stretch of road is unreasonably slick when slightly wet. No matter what speed you are going you spin out and fishtail on this section of road . It has happened to me multiple times along with dozen upon dozens of people that drive this road carefully every day. Have also watched cars in front of me slip and slide only going 40-50 mph. Won’t even drive in the left lane there. It is a death trap.

    • Tammy says:

      This section of road does cause accidents. I was the driver of one of those accidents listed. I was paying attention to the road, the conditions and my speed. My pick-up hit a slick spot and hydroplaned across traffic. My son and two other teenagers were killed. I love my son more than you could ever imagine and would never intentionally hurt him or anyone else. I have lived in this area my whole life and never thought I would be that driver. So your statement is completely inaccurate. I do not expect you to understand until you, yourself, is driving along and then all of a sudden, you have no control of your vehicle.

  2. Lee P says:

    All those calls to TxDOT did the trick. The fact that Paul Workman is facing a GOP challenger in the primary had nothing to do with it. Nothing.

  3. Craig says:

    I’ve driven that road almost every day for 20 years. Speed is not the cause of the recent wrecks through this stretch. I believe in both wrecks this week, the cars were going up the hill and that stretch of road is straight. I think the wrecks are caused from sudden acceleration or from the vehicle down shifting, then you give it gas to compensate, and the tires break loose. The roads through there are just really slick – I would contribute that to the number of large trucks that have to struggle going up those hills and dripping fluid.

  4. Sari says:

    The truck I witnessed spinning that morning mentioned above was a Tahoe – most likely a rear wheel drive. I’m very grateful that we were able to work together as a community to be heard and that TxDot took immediate action. This is not going to solve all accidents but will save many.

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