Gravel truck crash in Spicewood reinforces concern about Texas 71 travel danger

STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY

Another Texas 71 crash involving a mining industry vehicle and a motorist May 10 highlights the need for travel-lane upgrades due to increased traffic and a growing number of gravel trucks on the highway, Burnet County officials say. Courtesy photo

Another Texas 71 crash involving a mining industry vehicle and a motorist May 10 highlights the need for travel-lane upgrades due to increased traffic and a growing number of gravel trucks on the highway, Burnet County officials say. Courtesy photo

SPICEWOOD — Leah Hughes of Spicewood was headed back to work at her construction job in Spicewood on Texas 71 when the gravel truck came up behind her.

She had stopped her eastbound Chevrolet Tahoe in the left lane of the 6600 block of the highway and was waiting for oncoming traffic to clear before turning into the business’s parking lot.

“My worst fears were yesterday (May 10),” she said. “He hit me from behind.”

One of two eastbound gravel trucks traveling side by side struck her left bumper, spinning the Tahoe around, then collided with the front driver’s side of her vehicle.

“It happened so quickly. I was boxed in,” Hughes said. “He ended up going into oncoming traffic.”

Approaching vehicles managed to avoid colliding with the gravel hauler.

The speed limit on that stretch of road is 70 mph with the left-lane designated for passing only.

“He had plenty of time to slow down or move over,” Hughes said. “Obviously, a (center) turn-lane would be great.”

Hughes has lived in the area for four years, worked at the company for the past two years, and watched how the community has evolved.

“It’s so unreal. The traffic is so much worse now in both directions,” she said. “The whole 71 corridor is so dangerous.”

A Spicewood resident narrowly escaped injury May 10 when a gravel hauler struck her vehicle from behind while she waited to turn left on Texas 71. Courtesy photo

A Spicewood resident narrowly escaped injury May 10 when a gravel hauler struck her vehicle from behind while she waited to turn left on Texas 71. Courtesy photo

Being in the construction business, Hughes said she understands the need for the haulers but hopes highway officials might weigh the cost of potential lost lives against the price tag of enhanced safety improvements.

“It could have been so much worse. We’re always aware of this,” she said. “We’re just sitting ducks.”

Within the past five years, the Texas 71 corridor from the U.S. 281 intersection to the Travis County line has grown from one or two to more than a half-dozen businesses connected to the mining and rock crushing industry.

During that time period, emergency crews have been responding to an increasing number of collisions.

This month, Burnet County officials submitted a request to be considered for federal highway fuel tax funding for more safety measures such as a turn-lane, egress/ingress lanes, and road widening along this stretch of Texas 71.

However, the area of the crash, which is populated with at least three nearby concrete plants and one asphalt plant, failed to make the list to be forwarded to the Texas Department of Transportation.

“I see the concrete plants and quarries coming in. We’re in construction. We use them,” Hughes said. “It’s necessary. You have to have concrete, but it’s a lot of plants in one area.”

Even though she walked away without major injuries, the crash changed her perspective on her daily commutes.

“I think I will just go past (my job), turn around, and then come back and turn right,” she said. “I don’t know that I can just sit there in the future waiting to turn left.”

connie@thepicayune.com

6 Responses to “Gravel truck crash in Spicewood reinforces concern about Texas 71 travel danger”

  1. Chris says:

    There needs to be some clairification of the accident. The Dumptruck did not hit her from the rear. The driver did everything in his power to prevent it- in fact by heading for the ditch at risk of rolling the truck to try and avoid the SUV. He could not go right because of the other truck. He went into the West Bound lane-no one was near at this point. When beside the SUV she turned left and struck the Dumptruck. The two vehicles collided at the front corners. RF of the Dumptruck and LF of the SUV. With the SUV stopping abruptly to turn left there was no time to stop (look at the skid marks). Both drivers are very fortunate that no one was injured, for that we can all be thankful… it is a very dangerous road with no turn lane. Out of precaution, we do not turn left where there is no turn lane; we go past, find a cross street to turn onto and then head back so that we are turning right.

    • Leah Hughes says:

      Actually, he did hit me from behind as well as the front, there were two impacts. There was oncoming traffic. It’s all caught on video. I did not stop abruptly at all – were all very cautious when having to turn left into our property. The driver was clearly not paying attention to what was ahead of him in his lane. And yes…..everyone was very fortunate, a second one way or the other could have been catastrophic.

    • Leah Hughes says:

      “She struck the dump truck”?! Would be VERY interested to know your offiliation to the driver and/or the truck since you are clearly making efforts to change the facts and/or perception of facts. Videos don’t lie….people do. Nice effort there though.

    • Bob says:

      You can clearly see damage in the back if you look at the picture. There was impact in 2 places. 71 needs turning lanes to prevent this.
      I believe this article is more about our roads not about the wreck. No need to get defensive.

  2. Les says:

    Chris, you may be affiliated with the trucking industry in that area. Your comment reads as defensive. And that’s ok, fine. Still I believe Leah makes an compelling plea for improved roads and/or turn lanes on 71 in that area. I drive it to/from Austin and absolutely hate that drive. It IS dangerous. AND it is frustratingly long due to low speed limits. Well they are lower than I’d prefer. Now after reading Leah’s comments, I realize that we are going to be stuck with lower speeds until highway improvements come. Sadly Burnet County may continue to bias their spending to Marble Falls and Burnet areas. They may not feel connected to that stretch of 71.

  3. Dan Norstrom says:

    Sorry TxDOT needs a lot more fatalities before funds can be allocated.

    I know there is a fixed pool of funds to be fair and TxDOT has to allocate funds to all the bad intersections in this huge state, but to the **general public**, repeat the **general public** it seems that is what moves local, state and federal government…

    “Nah- we don’t see a justification for improvements- we need a higher body count and more Twitter posts”- not worth pushing the paper up through the budgeting process without it.

    That’s not true but it is a factor. Also, always thought one of the big concessions concrete and aggregate plants claim during voting and hearings on permits is that they will pay for additional roadway improvements due to the hundreds of thousands of tons of material going in and out of one spot and how the vehicles need a chance to get up to speed before entering main traffic lanes. Plus those trucks need big turn radius space. Just wondering. Everyone suffers- people businesses the roads, the local ambience of the area when these traffic issues multiply.

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