A truck drives across the U.S. 281 bridge over Lake Marble Falls, which is a 35-mph zone. Staff photo by David Bean
CORRECTION: This story was edited after publication to correct an error in the speed limit reported on U.S. 281 from Gateway Central south across the Marble Falls bridge. The speed limit was already 35 mph when the city of Marble Falls approved an ordinance in 2016 to drop the speed on a 1½-mile stretch from Gateway Central south on U.S. 281 to 55 mph from 70 mph. The DailyTrib.com regrets the error.
Traffic safety concerns in Marble Falls are on the rise following a fatal crash May 4 at the intersection of U.S. 281 and FM 2147. For those living on the hill southeast of the bridge or anywhere west along 2147 to Cottonwood Shores and Horseshoe Bay, it’s not a new problem.
Over the past six years, the city has averaged roughly 565 collisions per year city-wide with roughly 50 of those wrecks resulting in injuries, Marble Falls Police Capt. Trisha Ratliff told DailyTrib.com. About 2 percent of the total collisions happen on or near the 281 bridge.
“One might observe an accident in the area about twice in every one hundred trips across,” Ratliff explained.
That number is on the rise.
So far this year, eight collisions have been reported in the area. As this story was being published on May 20, another accident, a one-car collision, occurred. It is not included in the above figures. In the 12 months of 2020, a total of 12 collisions were reported in the area.
Los Escondidos resident Libbi Reeder, owner of Circle B Liquor in Marble Falls, drives the intersection daily. When she exits her neighborhood, she usually turns right to take the U.S. 281 bridge over Lake Marble Falls. Although she often misses rush hour traffic because of her work schedule, she is always extra cautious.
“(I) pull out onto the bridge, and the people coming down that hill? Well, I can tell you no one is going the speed limit (35 mph),” Reeder said.
To monitor traffic going into the city, the Marble Falls Police Department runs a radar on the 281 bridge daily, Ratliff said.
Sometimes, the radar is stationary; other times, officers monitor it from their patrol units. The biggest challenge mobile officers face while patrolling the bridge is the difficulty of turning around quickly enough to stop a speeding vehicle.
“For this reason, citizens will often observe officers parked near the north or south end of the 281 bridge when they are running radar so that they can safely pull into traffic to pursue a speeding vehicle,” Ratliff said.
In all of 2015, 11 citations were issued near or on the bridge. This number includes citations for all violations, not just speeding tickets. In comparison, 27 citations were given in that same area from January to May 12 of this year.
Reeder, who was born and raised in Marble Falls, said she expects traffic in the area to worsen with time, which makes her concerned for young drivers.
“I’ve got one kid at home and he’s fixing to drive, and I always tell him to be careful,” Reeder said.
The police department would like to remind everyone to drive with care and follow all traffic laws. Cell phones and other electronic devices should not be used while driving. Seatbelts should always be worn, and you should only drive sober and drug free.
“We love serving this community and hope our citizens understand that traffic enforcement, while unpopular at times, is a necessary tool used to reduce collisions and keep people and their families safe on Marble Falls roadways,” Ratliff said.