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Groups to take SH 71 safety concerns to CAMPO

Monday, March 17, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

Concerned Citizens for Highway 71 will be at tonight’s Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Policy Board meeting to raise awareness about the safety issues along SH 71 in western Travis County.


Organizer Diane Cunningham was in the car driving behind the Round Rock teachers who died in a hydroplaning accident along SH 71 near Spicewood last summer. Cunningham has joined others to lead the effort to create a petition to accelerate the improvements on SH 71.


“We have received some of the specifics on the long-term planning from Travis County,” said Cunningham, who has addressed county commissioners. “We have asked them to please start looking at long-term plans, including looking into barriers, because of the accidents that have occurred, most often from vehicles crossing into oncoming traffic.”


According to the petition, Concerned Citizens for Highway 71 lists a number of priorities, not the least of which is a goal to address the hydroplaning issue on SH 71. Hydroplaning has led to a number of fatality accidents along the roadway, including the death of the teachers during a rainstorm last summer.


Other goals for SH 71 include dividing the highway sufficiently to prevent head-on collisions through the use of barriers; the placement of flashing warning signs; reduction of speed limits along hazardous stretches of the roadway; installation of traffic lights at major crossroads; the establishment of turn lanes; and to widen the existing stretches that contain turn lanes, so that each side of the roadways include two lanes on each side of turn lane.


The specific area of interest to Concerned Citizens is the stretch of SH 71 between FM 2244 to the Travis County line. Local residents have noted a number of accidents along that stretch of road in the last 18 months, including a number of head-on collisions.


The most recent accident caused the death of three teens.


Concerned Citizens of Highway 71 have no pro- or con- agenda on toll roads. The group did take some points from Fix 290, creating its agenda as one suggestion. SH 71 is a major corridor – the subject of much development – Cunningham noted. That development raises concerns about the roadway.


“So many people are affected when even one person is injured on Highway 71,” Cunningham said. “It’s not just our immediate community; it’s so many communities that are using it to get into downtown. We’re deeply affected by it.”


A number of issues need to be addressed, Cunningham said. That includes the winding nature of the roadway, as well as the speed limits that appear to go from 55 to 60 to 70 to 45. Beyond that, the road is curvy and winding, causing problems.


“You don’t have any human error out there,” Cunningham said. “You sneeze, and you find yourself driving in the left lane. It’s easy to find yourself in a head-on collision.”


Concerned Citizens for Highway 71 will be first on the list of public speakers at tonight’s CAMPO meeting.

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