Little progress on safety of SH 21

Frustration is mounting for residents living near the Hays and Caldwell county line as safety along State Highway (SH) 21 continues to come into question.

While officials provided answers to residents’ questions during a town hall meeting at Uhland City Hall Jan. 18, some felt little progress has been made to the ensure safety on the road.   

Victor Vargas, TxDOT area engineer, presented answers to a variety of questions submitted by residents after a previous town hall meeting.

According to TxDOT crash data, there were ten fatal accidents along SH 21 from 2012 to 2017.

Residents listen to heated discussion at the Uhland City Hall meeting over State Highway 21 on Jan. 18. (photo by Moses Leos III)

Residents listen to heated discussion at the Uhland City Hall meeting over State Highway 21 on Jan. 18. (photo by Moses Leos III)

The most recent fatal collision occurred Jan. 2 when a Buda man was killed in a wrong-way crash on SH 21. According to the data, there were nearly 400 accidents on the highway during the five-year time frame.

Despite the accidents, Vargas said the current level of service (LOS) for the roadway for SH 21 from the Bastrop County line to SH 80 is an A or a B, which means vehicles traveling at a free flow speed are following the posted speed limit 35 to 50 percent of the time.

In addition, Vargas said the state is looking to widen parts of SH 21 to a three-lane roadway using the “Super 2” configuration, which features alternative passing lanes and turn lanes, as well as adding shoulders. The state broke the project up into three phases along SH 21.

But the projects are not funded at this time, Vargas said. The projects were submitted for funding during the 2016 fiscal year, but he said the road didn’t qualify. Other funding sources are being sought for the projects. TxDOT could also work with Hays and Caldwell county officials as well. Vargas said SH 21, however, is listed as a priority corridor for the state.

“Unfortunately, this corridor did not rank high enough,” Vargas said. “But that doesn’t mean we should stop.”

Should funding be approved, TxDOT estimates a 24-month time period to prepare a contract for bid. In addition, the state is also preparing for warrant studies for intersections on SH 21 at FM 2001 and FM 2720 (Old Lockhart Highway).

But when it came to potentially lowering the speed limit, Vargas said a speed study performed by a consultant proved inconclusive

Niederwald resident Melanie Puryear was worried about trucks that travel through neighborhoods that line SH 21.

Puryear also worried about the potential growth of Uhland and Niederwald and how that could affect traffic, saying she belives it could “look like South Lamar” in a decade.

But she ultimately felt after three town hall meetings with officials that it “doesn’t seem like it’s accomplishing anything.”

“If it was a county road, they could get something done,” Dillard Puryear said. “Since it’s a state highway, it’s out of their reach as far as getting things done.”

Uhland resident Patricia Sylvester said she was upset that “little has been done” during the three meetings.

“It’s like all of our anxiety and frustrations are falling on deaf ears,” Sylvester said.

For Sylvester, an increased law enforcement presence on SH 21 is needed for the roadway.

But she felt TxDOT is trying to do “too much and that’s what’s taking too long.”

Prioritizing items is what she believes could help move the process forward.

“My dream wish is 55 (mile-per-hour) speed limit and as many red lights as we can fight and get,” Sylvester said.

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