Community seeks answers to Hwy. 290 safety issues

Hays County Commissioner Walt Smith  (left) hosted the June 17 panel.

Hays County Commissioner Walt Smith (left) hosted the June 17 panel.

Correction: This article was updated June 20 to properly reflect the potential cost of a new traffic patroller for Hays County Precinct 4 and to reflect John Burns' title as Justice of the Peace.

Residents along Hwy. 290 from the Y at Oak Hill through Dripping Springs are pushing for ramped up safety measures along the highway.

The 290 Safety Coalition, a recently formed community action group, is circulating a petition to reduce the speed limit on an eastern stretch of Hwy. 290 that runs through Dripping Springs, between Trautwein and Nutty Brown roads. According to Texas Department of Transportation's Crash Records Information System, 221 accidents occurred in the past nine years within that stretch.

“I started working on this issue because I was going to get coffee with my two kids in my car, and I was run off into a ditch,” said Sarah Kline, president of the 290 Safety Coalition.

Kline said it was after discussing the accident with other area mothers that she decided there was a need for community action, beginning with the petition to reduce the speed limit. The petition has been signed by over 1,600 people so far.

Kline also made contact with Hays County Commissioner Walt Smith, whose campaign platform had included a pledge to address safety concerns on Hwy. 290.

Smith hosted a panel at Sunset Canyon Baptist Church on June 17 to discuss overall safety concerns on Hwy. 290. Panelists included Dripping Springs Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds, TxDOT Assistant Area Engineer Michelle Romage-Chambers, Hays County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace John Burns, Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hood and Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler. Numerous community members, including Kline, were also in attendance.

Smith said his goal in organizing the panel was to explore the idea of collaborative solutions for Hwy. 290.

“I know that each one of the people on our panel tonight have tried efforts [to improve road safety] on their own,” he said.

Hood and Cutler emphasized the need for an additional patroller to increase enforcement along the stretch of highway near Dripping Springs, where a lack of access roads means driveways to neighborhoods and businesses often connect directly with the high-speed corridor.

According to Hood, an additional patroller would come at a cost of around $100,000 to the county.

“As soon as we drive away, people start speeding again,” he said.

Burns, however, said the consequences for drivers pulled over for speeding on the highway are not punitive enough to be a deterrent for many people who live in the area, which he said is largely affluent.

Several of the panelists expressed support for a decreased speed limit. Cutler said he agreed that reducing speeds could lessen the severity of accidents on the highway, but not necessarily the frequency of accidents. Distracted driving, including cell phone use, is an equally significant issue, he said.

Also, reducing the speed limit on the highway is not a simple proposition, Romage-Chambers said. According to Texas law, speed limits on state highways are set based on speed studies that determine the 85th percentile of how fast drivers are actually going on a given highway, due to safety considerations.

Romage-Chambers said a Hwy. 290 speed study is currently underway, as well as a study of intersection safety along the highway.

After the meeting, Smith said he was planning to bring recommendations on the issue to upcoming Hays County budget discussions, including a proposal to station two additional patrol cars on the highway.

“We need more enforcement here, and adding patrol officers is the quickest way to do it,” Smith said.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


MOST RECENT

An "I Voted" sticker is left outside the Northwest Recreation Center in Austin, one of 37 early voting polling places open in Travis County. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
More than half of all Travis County voters have cast their ballots, exceeding early voting turnout percentage in 2016

More than 448,000 votes have been cast in Travis County. Early voting closes on Oct. 30.

Austin ISD trustees met Oct. 26, discussing in-person learning during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Twice as many Austin elementary students have returned to campus compared to first day of in-person instruction, district says

Austin ISD will open its campuses to accommodate all students who request in-person instruction beginning Nov. 2.

Capital Metro released new renderings Oct. 26 of its proposed Project Connect expansion, which voters will decide Nov. 3. This rendering shows a Blue Line light rail train at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Rendering courtesy Capital Metro)
In final week of early voting, here is what Austin residents should know about Project Connect

The proposition appears as a 237-word block of text near the end of the ballot but boils down to a simple question: Are voters for or against a significant expansion of local public transportation, paid for in part with property tax funds?

Photo of the facade of the Dripping Springs ISD administraton building
Dripping Springs ISD to discuss superintendent's potential resignation

An item on the board of trustee's Oct. 26 meeting agenda indicates consideration of a resignation agreement for Superintendent Todd Washburn.

Alex Wu (left) and Kevin Tran stand, social distanced, outside of Bao'd Up in Sunset Valley. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Bao'd Up owners hope to make the traditional Chinese steamed buns a household name in Austin

The local chain has four locations, including one in Sunset Valley. Owner Alex Wu said as the franchise continues to grow, he hopes in a few years he will no longer have to explain what bao is.

Scott Friedeck, owner of The Graphic Guitar Guys, started working with guitars in 2011. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dripping Springs small business owner Scott Friedeck got his big break in the music industry from George Strait

Friedeck's business, The Graphic Guitar Guys, creates custom wraps for guitars for artists to sell as merchandise.

East West Manufacturing will retain 30 jobs and create an additional 30 new jobs for a total of 60 full-time jobs in Round Rock over five years, according to an economic incentive agreement signed Oct. 22. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Round Rock to add 60 jobs and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

A screen shot of Elon Musk speaking into a microphone
Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirms 2021 opening for Travis County gigafactory

Musk said construction is moving apace at the new electric auto factory east of Austin.

The bakery is known for its Texas Sized Donut weighing 2 pounds and can trace its history back to 1926 when Reinhold R. Moehring opened the shop in downtown Round Rock. (Community Impact file photo courtesy Round Rock Donuts)
Round Rock Donuts coming to Cedar Park and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Austin area.

Oct. 23 is the last day Texas voters can apply for a vote-by-mail ballot. (Courtesy Pexels)
Tackling Texas' vote-by-mail system: Applying, delivering, tracking your ballot

Oct. 23 is the last day Texas voters can apply for a vote-by-mail ballot.