Flashing beacons soon will be installed at the corner of County Road 401 and Texas 71 in Spicewood along with new signage on both sides of the approach to the intersection that suggests dropping speeds to 50 mph from 70 mph, announced Burnet County Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery at the Commissioners Court’s regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 23.
“This is a step in the right direction to make this intersection safer, while the other improvements mentioned still need to be implemented,” he said.
Dockery is also asking for the Texas Department of Transportation to construct a center turn lane and acceleration and deceleration lanes to drop the mandated speed limit to 60 mph from 70 mph and, “when TxDOT warrants are met,” to install a traffic light.
Commissioners approved a resolution to formally apply for these highway safety improvement projects at TxDOT’s upcoming Call for Safety Projects on Dec. 15. Dockery gave commissioners 15 pages of comments that Spicewood residents along CR 401, also known as Shovel Mountain Road, sent to TxDOT asking for these improvements.
“You have to be so careful because it’s difficult to see the cars coming up the small hill heading from Spicewood, plus they are moving so fast,” wrote resident Kim Collins, who has to take that route to work in Marble Falls five days a week. “I say a prayer every morning as I prepare to pull out from there that I get across safely.”
Not everyone makes the turn — in either direction — successfully. The number of major accidents has recently increased. In June 2020, a 46-year-old Spicewood woman was killed in a two-vehicle collision at that intersection. Another more recent accident involved a van that burst into flames after impact. Kids in the vehicle were rescued by passersby. No major injuries were reported. Several of those who witnessed that wreck wrote to TxDOT immediately after the incident.
“After the horrible wreck a few days ago, I am writing to TxDOT to encourage them to do the right thing and place a traffic signal at the intersection of Hwy 71 and 401,” Jim Mullen wrote. “This should not even be up for debate since anything trying to turn onto 401 from 71 are risking their lives.”
In the resolution, commissioners note that Burnet County is one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas and home to commuters who depend on the Texas 71 corridor to get to and from work.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and this is a very targeted, amplified squeak,” County Judge James Oakley said of the resolution.
Dockery said he will hand deliver the resolution, a personal statement, and the public comments to the transportation department on Dec. 15.
“The history of motor vehicle collisions at this intersection has driven this resolution,” Dockery said in his statement to TxDOT. “Improvements such as construction of a center turn lane, acceleration and deceleration lanes, and lowering of the speed limit in the area of the intersection are needed. I appreciate TxDOT’s timely response and their continued collaboration and partnership to make our entire road system safer.”