San Antonio’s KSAT reported that a woman was killed on US Highway 281 on Sunday in the southern end of Blanco County. Officials with the Department of Public Safety told the news station that a southbound car had stopped in traffic to make a left turn into the Lake of the Hills subdivision when it was rear-ended by a truck, sending the car into the northbound traffic lane and into the path of two motorcycles.
One motorcyclist, a man from Pflugerville, was able to avoid the car, but the other rider, the man’s wife, couldn’t and died in the accident. Troopers told KSAT that three people were taken to the hospital, with two in critical condition.
A visitor who stopped by the Blanco County News office reported that traffic was backed up and detoured off the highway while crews worked the accident scene.
TxDOT Projects Planned
The Texas Department of Transportation has been looking at the stretch of US 281 from the Guadalupe River, through Spring Branch and Blanco, to US Highway 290 East, to alleviate traffic problems and prevent the recurrence of crashes.
Recent projects added left-hand turn lanes at US 281 at Glen Crest, south of Blanco, and at US 281 at McCall Creek Road, north of town. Those two projects are paid for with safety funding.
“What we’re looking at is cost estimates,” says Howard Lyons, Burnet area engineer for the Austin district of TxDOT. Engineers have looked at the viability of a “Super 2” from the Comal County line to US Highway 290 East. “Included in that are selected areas where it’d be beneficial for a left turn lane as well.”
A Super 2 highway is made up of three lanes, Lyons explains, with the middle lane used as a passing lane that alternates between the two traffic directions. In some locations, a left turn lane would be the more viable option, Lyons says, and the engineers are looking at that right now.
Lyons reports that the district is seeking opportunities to fund the construction of the Super 2. The estimated cost, with select left-turn lanes, would be $500,000 per mile. The distance is approximately 20 miles.
“Right now, it’s very possible that we may qualify for Proposition 12 funds,” he says. “The legislature has allowed TxDOT to do some borrowing and they’re looking for candidates, especially on corridors. We’re hopeful to get some or part of that.”
Sunday’s accident, and all past accidents on US 281 are reviewed; Lyons says that TxDOT investigates all of them to find cause and contributing factors, to seek ways to remedy the situation and prevent recurrence.
US 281 Growth
“The whole of 281 is growing,” Lyons says. The four-lane, divided section of US 281 that stretches from the Guadalupe River crossing into San Antonio is being extended just north of the Blanco County line. The four-lane road should take care of the accident-prone stretch of road outside the Lake of the Hills subdivision.
The four lanes puts pressure on Blanco County and that section of the corridor, Lyons reports, with the increased ease of getting into downtown San Antonio. “The tax burden and cost of living are more attractive in Blanco County with folks looking for rural lifestyles,” Lyons adds.
The Super 2 plan is most likely to bear fruit; the Austin district is responsible for the US 281 corridor, Lyons concludes, and will do everything to make it viable and as safe as possible.