Burnet County officials call for TxDOT road upgrades on crash-prone Texas 71 in Spicewood

STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY

Two eastbound pickup trucks — one stopped to turn into a subdivision entrance — collided March 14, prompting Burnet County officials to capture images at the scene to encourage the Texas Department of Transportation to consider safety upgrades to the crash-plagued section of Texas 71. Photo courtesy Burnet County Judge James Oakley

Two eastbound pickup trucks — one stopped to turn into a subdivision entrance — collided March 14, prompting Burnet County officials to capture images at the scene to encourage the Texas Department of Transportation to consider safety upgrades to the crash-plagued section of Texas 71. Photo courtesy Burnet County Judge James Oakley

SPICEWOOD — Burnet County officials on March 15 descended upon the scene of the second Texas 71 collision in a week to gather evidence and urge the Texas Department of Transportation to consider safety upgrades to the crash-prone stretch of highway.

The crash happened at about 10 a.m. Thursday at the intersection of Vista View Trail and involved a Dodge pickup truck and a Ford pickup truck both traveling east in the area of the Doublehorn Creek subdivision.

According to witnesses on the scene, the Ford pickup had stopped to turn left into the subdivision when an approaching Dodge slammed into the back of the vehicle.

No life-threatening injuries were reported; however, images at the scene captured how damaging such a crash could be.

“I went there. It’s important for me to see and document these accidents because it directly correlates to the safety enhancements needed on TxDOT highways in Burnet County,” County Judge James Oakley said.

Oakley, along with Pct. 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery, who was also on the scene, said they have pitched their concerns to TxDOT on several occasions about needed upgrades to the highway.

In February, the Burnet County Commissioners Court also approved a list of proposed road infrastructure upgrades vying for potential state and federal funding, including a $15 million improvement project on Texas 71 in Spicewood.

“This section of road is part of the CAMPO projects recently submitted by Burnet County,” Oakley said. “(The recent collision) is yet another example of a need to find funding for center-turn lanes on Highway 71.”

CAMPO is the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which coordinates with local and state agencies on transportation issues affecting Bastrop, Burnet, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties.

In another incident March 12, a rental truck driver was transported by ambulance to an emergency room after his vehicle crashed into the back of an 18-wheeler exiting an asphalt plant on Texas 71 just east of the more recent collision.

“We also need acceleration, deceleration lanes for our industrial traffic like rock quarries and concrete plants as illustrated by the other wreck early this week,” Oakley said.

The CAMPO board is scheduled to meet in May to prioritize projects among its members and potentially make recommendations to TxDOT for consideration in August.

connie@thepicayune.com

12 Responses to “Burnet County officials call for TxDOT road upgrades on crash-prone Texas 71 in Spicewood”

  1. Steve says:

    If people would quit driving in the left lane we would have less crashes

    • Nicole says:

      Couldn’t agree more. The left lanes shouldn’t be used unless passing or turning is taking place!!! Every day I’m in a near accident trying to turn left bc someone isn’t paying attention and just driving along in the left lane for no reason…..

    • South MF says:

      Even if people overuse the left lane, turn lanes would virtually eliminate this type of accident. The volume of people on our roadways mean that the amount of people who use the left lane, even correctly, will be higher. The fatality a few years back at EZ Heat/281 was an 18 wheeler pulling into the left lane to legally pass when it rear-ended the driver waiting to turn across traffic. That and decreasing the speed limit instead of INCREASING it to 75 in these areas. Even a simple blinking light at these intersections may temporarily help. I wish our officials would pressure TxDot to address the 403/Old MF Road/281 intersection. I also wish the $20+ million dollar Wirtz Dam bridge proposal would be tabled to allow CAMPO funds to be used towards more of these dangerous intersections. $20 million would build a lot of turn lanes…

      • James Oakley says:

        The Wirtz Bridge project does not compete in the same category as turn lanes. Turn lanes are considered safety projects which have a separate funding silo than congestion / connectivity projects.

        • South MF says:

          This seems to be in part a situation where congestion problems have lead to a major safety issue. From a priority standpoint, I would argue it (safety issues/turning lanes/shoulders) should take precedence if at all possible over future potential issues (predicting future congestion) since it is causing fatalities now, and is just a matter of time before somebody else is killed while the bureaucracy takes it time to decide how to address it. Where are the suggestions for short-term solutions that would help until a permanent fix is offered, such as reducing speed limits, blinking lights/warning signs, extra patrol, etc? I know I’m unable to appreciate the intricacies and process that is required to get something like this funded. I just want TxDot and officials to be as or more enthusiastic about addressing these issues as they are about a project such as the Wirtz Bridge project.

          On another note, I will say that I am appreciative for what you and other elected officials do. I’m not speaking as much from a place of disapproval or blind criticism of how you carry out your job. Most citizens just want practical, reasonable solutions offered and executed so we can quit reading headlines about another wreck or fatality, or stop worrying that it is my family involved in one of these preventable accidents.

          • James Oakley says:

            I would be happy to speak with you in detail on the intricacies. Given you have only provided a code name, please fell free to contact me at 512-756-5400

  2. Pat says:

    It is strange that they have increased the speed limit to 75 on so many roads without day/night changes like it used to be. Also, there is not enough light to see deer at night and no way to stop at 75 to avoid hitting one. The roads are too crowded to be driving at that speed day or night.

  3. joe h says:

    I travel the SH71 corridor everyday, seriously, there is a cause for turning lane installation on this roadway to be constructed as we have experienced by the number of accidents as of late being recorded. TXDOT has to prepare a STUDY which has to constitute the reason for such construction to occur. Result of such STUDY will determine the response of action TXDOT will make, usually culminating (sadly) from the number of deaths that occur to constitute such action. In other words, it takes an act of congress to make it happen.
    Seriously, this needs to change! As this area is significantly growing!

  4. Randy Mayville says:

    EVERY NEW BUSINESS on Hwy 71, that uses HEAVY Trucks, like Concrete, Gravel, Soil Products, etc, MUST have a lane along the shoulder for BOTH Arriving Trucks and Departing Trucks. Also, the Left Hand Turn Lanes shgould have been installed FIRST! It’s a SHAME on our Gov’t that we have to have several deaths before we upgrade on safety issues. You’ll NEVER get people to stop using the Left Hand Lane, just as you’ll NEVER get everyone to stop0 using cell phones while driving. It happens! Those Left Hand Turn Lanes will immediately reduce accidents and save lives…

  5. joe h says:

    Good grief folks, REALLY!!, The Wirtz dam bridge project has nothing to do with what this article reports on TXDOT road upgrades on crash-prone SH71. Get a clue on what story you are commenting about. There is a big difference between alternate routes on getting to the Cottonwood Shores/Horseshoe Bay area from FM 1431 W between FM 1980 & Granite Shoals and the suggestions of turn lanes on SH71 to improve safety. Thank you Mr James Oakley for chiming in on the differences of classifications of safety measures even though they are two different conversations miles apart.

  6. Elizabeth Schnelle says:

    It would be great if turning lanes at the quarries in this story could be done like the one North of Marble Falls, on HWY 281, at the railroad area.

  7. Robert R says:

    If a four lane highway was constructed where Hamilton Pool Road is currently to 281, the ever growing congestion along both 71w and HPR would be alleviated for thousands of commuters. Yet as more and more “reasons to turn” are erected, left turn lanes become a necessity not an option.

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