CALDWELL COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Christopher Limon grew up along State Highway 21 between Uhland and Niederwald. He says what was once a country road is now a treacherous stretch of highway.
“Twenty-one has become like a little IH-35. This road was never made for that much traffic,” said Limon.
Those who live along SH 21 have met twice with Texas Department of Transportation officials to express their concerns. Their top priorities for improvements include: widening the road, lowering the speed limit and adding signal lights. TxDOT says they have plans to install two signal lights on SH 21: one at Farm to Market 2720 in Uhland and another at Farm to Market 2001 North in Niederwald.
Limon says that even with a flashing signal at the SH 21/FM 2001 North intersection, that doesn’t slow down impatient drivers. “Even though there’s a flashing light and a stop sign oncoming to 21, you still see daily wrecks almost happen.”
TxDOT says they are currently waiting for metal poles for the signal lights to be delivered, so construction can begin this spring or summer. FM 2720 just got approved for a signal last month and the design phase for the future signal light is now underway, but there’s no timeline for installation.
“We really need the help of having a light put up out here to save lives and make the community safer for us,” says Caldwell County Justice of the Peace Ben E. Brady, who has lived along SH 21 for two years. Brady says he sees an increase in traffic on the highway during the weekends when many travel from San Marcos to College Station.
For Brady, the deadly crashes along this stretch of road is something he sees up close and personal since he is usually the person law enforcement agencies call to declare time of death on individuals killed in crashes in his jurisdiction. “How many people have to die before we get a light in there and get some speed control on that road?” says Brady. “TxDOT will tell us they’re concerned about the number of people that die on [SH 21], but, I’m sorry, actions speak louder than words.”
SH 21 at Cotton Gin Road and at FM 2001 South/Rohde Road has also been evaluated for safety improvements, but TxDOT says they currently do not meet necessary criteria for the installation of signal lights. On Monday, Jan. 2, two drivers died when their vehicles collided on SH 21 near FM 2001.
The agency is also considering widening SH 21 from two lanes to three by using a “Super 2” configuration, with alternating passing lanes and turn lanes where reasonable, as well as adding shoulders. A “Super 2” project helps to increase safety on the roadway by providing a periodic passing lane on a two-lane rural highway. The additional lane alternates from one direction of travel to the other, providing passing opportunities in both directions for drivers.
The work will be broken up into three separate projects:
- Providing Super 2 passing lanes for around 16 miles on SH 21 from SH 80 to the Hays/Caldwell County line
- Providing Super 2 passing lanes for around 5 miles on SH 21 from the Hays/Caldwell County line to the Caldwell/Bastrop County line
- Providing Super 2 passing lanes for around 14 miles on SH 21 from the Caldwell/Bastrop County line to SH 71
TxDOT says these projects are all currently under development and construction could start after 2021. However, they are looking to fund these projects sooner through the Highway Engineering Safety Program.
When it comes to speed limit along on the road (60 mph and 65 mph), a study last summer found no speed changes were needed. Another speed study gets underway this spring to determine if the results will differ from the original study.
Residents living along SH 21 are hosting another meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the recent deaths and crashes on. The meeting will be held at Uhland Town Hall.