AUSTIN (KXAN) — What once were rolling hills are now dotted with numerous subdivisions along West State Highway 71 in western Travis County. As new homes are being built, the traffic on SH 71 has steadily increased, which residents say are leading to dangerous situations on the road.
Luke Morris moved to the Sweetwater community about seven months ago. While he enjoys his new home, he worries about his family’s safety every day.
“The scariest for me is my wife and son leaving the house in the morning and having to exit out of here,” said Morris.
Angelique Fernandez shares the same concerns. “The hills, the blind spots, the tread, the lack of light–with as many communities as we have,” she says. “It’s not fun to know we are all paying taxes out here and there’s a safety issue.”
Residents agree that a combination of winding roads, outdated pavement and lack of lighting, as well as growth in the area are a treacherous combination on SH 71 between Bee Cave and Spicewood. Last year, Texas Department of Transportation data shows that five crashes were reported at the intersection of SH 71 and Pedernales Summit Parkway—the main street that leads into the Sweetwater subdivision. Beloved Lake Travis teacher, Ginger Johnson, was killed nearly two years ago in a car crash on the same stretch of road.
Just last month, Thomas Erdman was involved in a serious crash at the intersection; leaving him with a broken hand and crushed ankle. says he knows the road is dangerous, but it’s also in how drivers handle it. “People don’t regard that it says 65 and they think they can stop on a dime,” Erdmann explains,”they’re just not thinking. I call is careless…. distracted.”
Erdman acknowledges the road is dangerous, but he also believes drivers need to pay attention. “People don’t regard that it says 65 [mph] and they think they can stop on a dime,” Erdmann explains, “they’re just not thinking. I call it careless… distracted.”
TxDOT agrees. When KXAN asked about any safety improvements planned for SH 71, they told us they actively monitor roads to improve safety and it’s a two-part solution.
“TxDOT can do all it can to build and maintain a safe highway system, but at the end of the day, drivers hold the key to driving safely. We continuously encourage drivers to adhere to some basic safe driving tips: pay attention, buckle seatbelts, put cell phones away, never drink and drive, obey all traffic laws, and drive to conditions,” said a TxDOT spokesperson.