US 281 project to begin this year, adding turn lane and paved shoulders

Construction on a “dangerous” section of U.S. 281 in southern Burnet County is set to begin in November or December of this year, making the highway safer with the addition of a center turn lane.

The project also includes wider travel lanes and paved shoulders on the 2½-mile section of U.S. 281 from the Texas 71 interchange south to the Burnet/Blanco county line. 

“This has been a project we’ve pushed for five years, six years now,” said Burnet County Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery. “There’s two left turn movements trying to happen there if you’re southbound. In absence of a turn lane, it really presents a dangerous situation.” 

Currently, this section of U.S. 281 is a four-lane, undivided road with two 11-foot travel lanes in each direction.

“It gives people the opportunity to get out of the main travel lane while trying to execute a left-hand turn,” Dockery said. “And, yes, there have been many accidents out there. I’ve worked several of them myself, including a fatality.”

The construction was initially slated to begin in 2021 but was accelerated thanks to a grant secured by the TxDOT. 

“There’s not additional right of way and there’s no bridges on that stretch of highway, so I don’t anticipate any hurdles on that project,” Dockery said. “It should go pretty quickly when they get started.”

TxDOT is funding the $5.6 million project through its safety grant program. The department has requested a work zone for that stretch of U.S. 281 to reduce the speed limit from 75 mph to 60 mph. The Marble Falls City Council heard an ordinance for the zone at its July 7 meeting and is expected to vote on it at a meeting August 4. 

“We’ve got some fantastic projects on the horizon,” Dockery said. “As with any good highway improvement project, it’ll be a mess while under construction, but we’ll be in a much better product in the end.”

alex@thepicayune.com

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