Roughly one wreck every 2.5 days since 2016 is the rate of vehicle incidents along U.S. Highway 290 in the Dripping Springs area, according to a Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) report.
The data, requested by the News-Dispatch, recorded vehicle wrecks from 2016 to the present on U.S. 290 from RM 165 in the Henly area to Fitzhugh Road near the Hays and Travis county line. A total of 430 wrecks were logged by TxDOT officials during that timeframe.
According to the report, 2017 was one of the most dangerous years on the highway. Two fatal wrecks and 142 total crashes ranging from non-injury to serious injury happened that year.
In 2018, six tractor trailer wrecks and four motorcycle related crashes happened on that section of the highway.
TxDOT’s report also indicated that speed may not be the only factor for the accidents. From 2016 to 2019, TxDOT reported 34 speed-related accidents on the road. Alcohol-related wrecks accounted for 31 crashes during that period.
In total, ten fatal crashes have taken place on U.S. 290 from 2016 to 2019, but it didn’t specify how many total people were killed in those wrecks, according to the report.
The News-Dispatch reported 19 people died in wrecks on U.S. 290 from 2014 to 2017.
Despite major construction efforts to widen and improve the highway, Dripping Springs residents who use U.S. 290 to commute to work and school see it as a hindrance to their safety.
More than 20 residents responded to a News-Dispatch Facebook post regarding their thoughts on U.S. 290; half a dozen responded via email. Many of the residents voiced major concerns about speeding on the highway.
Noah Weaver, a Dripping Springs resident and mobile IT repair technician, said his job requires a lot of driving on U.S. 290, which has led him to believe the road is more dangerous than it’s ever been.
“Honestly, I’m never more nervous on the road as when I’m on [U.S.] 290 going to Dripping Springs,” Weaver said. “I don’t believe dropping the speed limit and making it a two-lane highway helped at all.”
Michelle Rosen, a Dripping Springs area resident, wrote that distractions and “left-lane driving” leads to danger on the roadway.
“I’m floored by the number of people who just pull out onto the highway from a side road or parking lot without hitting the gas to catch up with the speed limit,” Rosen said.
Some residents on Facebook voiced concern about the urban sprawl of the county, as commuters traveling to Austin and Dripping Springs account for a majority of highway gridlock.
“Highway 290 is a U.S. highway – it should not have stoplights and thousands of driveways and little roads entering the highway directly,” Cecily Allmon said.
Allmon said sections of U.S. 290 in Dripping Springs have been reduced to two lanes during construction, making the road more dangerous in the process.
“The treatment of this section of road needs to be considered,” she said. “The current design just makes it more dangerous.”
In 2017, Hays County and TxDOT officials confirmed that the entities would begin a long process to widen U.S. 290 from McGregor Lane to the Hays County and Blanco County line. However, officials acknowledged construction could begin up to six years after environmental impact studies and planning.