The view in Blanco has long been that the intersection of US Highway 281 and Blanco Avenue needed a traffic signal. When a fatal accident occurred at the intersection in 2008, local resident Anna Barker and several neighbors spoke at the August 12, 2008 Blanco City Council meeting in support of a traffic signal. City council voted that the then-Mayor Jim Rodrigue send a letter to the Texas Department of Transportation on behalf of the city.
Scott Cunningham, the TxDOT Traffic Engineer, said that the fatal accident, other issues that had been reported at the intersection, and the fact that it serves the Super S, Security State Bank, Seymour’s, and a development had led the agency to conduct a count at the intersection to see if a signal was warranted.
State law requires a set of “warrants,” or criteria, that must be met for a traffic signal to be installed. Warrants vary by state, but are based primarily on traffic volume, said Cunningham. While accidents at intersections might indicate that a traffic signal is needed, the signal itself will also cause accidents according to studies published by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program.
“When we studied [the intersection] in 2008,” Cunningham said, “it did not have enough volume on Blanco Avenue to meet the requirements, but it was close. We decided to start the design process as it takes 3 months for signal poles to be manufactured and you have to pay for them up-front before they make them. After the design was completed and the poles arrived, we recounted the intersection in 2009 and the signal met warrants.”
Cunningham said the agency saw that the increased volume meant there were fewer opportunities for gaps in the traffic stream for vehicles coming off Blanco Avenue. The 2009 count was conducted on April 29 and showed that 9,120 vehicles approached the intersection from the north on US 281, 4,368 approached from the south, 988 came from Blanco Avenue, and 211 entered the intersection from Seymour’s and the development behind it.
In May 2010, the US 281/Blanco Ave. signal was number 10 on a list of 49 signals waiting to be built. In August 2010, the Blanco police chief, as well as Representative Patrick Rose’s office, contacted TxDOT and, at that time, the signal was number 3 on the list. TxDOT issued the construction work order to Austin Traffic Signal on September 7, 2010.
“It typically takes 2 years to get a signal built,” Cunningham reported, “and this one was 2 years plus 1 month.”