Coalition seeks to lower U.S. 290 speed limit

Four times a week on her journey to therapy sessions for her daughter, Sarah Kline’s car violently shakes due to the force of vehicles traveling at high speeds around her. 

Trying to make a left turn into a business she and her daughter go to frequently is a scary reality of driving on Highway 290 in Dripping Springs. 

Deemed one of the most dangerous roadways in Hays County by locals, Highway 290 in Dripping Springs was once a country road that many residents feel hasn’t kept up with the growth around it. Through the creation of the 290 Safety Coalition, Klein hopes to not only raise awareness of the current dangers on the highway, but possibly find a way to lower the speed limit for commuter safety.

Kline, president of the coalition, said she started the group because she and her neighbors live “with this same reality of driving on that road (U.S. 290).”

Since its conception, the coalition has gained traction in Dripping Springs, garnering 1,500 signatures on a petition to lower the speed limit on U.S. 290 east of Dripping Springs.

Kline and her coalition are asking the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and other local jurisdictions to consider the proposal. 

“We drive on this road to get to where we need to be, but at what cost?” Kline asked.

Statistically, U.S. 290 has become more dangerous road than any other comparable highway in the Austin area, according to data from TxDOT and the coalition. From 2010 to 2019, TxDOT reported 46 fatalities related to traffic incidents on U.S. 290 from the western Hays County line near Henly to the Y in Oak Hill in Travis County.

Of those fatalities, 15 occurred from Henly to Trautwein Rd. while the remaining 31 fatalities occurred from Trautwein Road to the Y at Oak Hill.

“We are now playing catch-up to address some of these concerns on 290,” Kline said. “But for now, what we are proposing could have an immediate effect on the road. We will also put pressure on TxDOT to create medians and dedicated turn lanes.”

However, their goal could face some bumps in the road. Since U.S. 290 spans through Hays County and into Travis County, local jurisdictions can only address problems within their purview.

In Hays County, Commissioner Walt Smith has given vocal support to the coalition for lowering the speed limit. 

Kline said TxDOT’s work spans beyond county lines which could aid in safety efforts throughout the highway. 

As urban sprawl in Dripping Springs continues to increase, U.S. 290 will be a central transportation avenue for the growing population of Hays and Travis counties. Without the necessary changes to make the highway safer, Kline fears fatal vehicle wrecks will only continue to rise. 

“We need lower speed limits, dedicated turn lanes to prevent rear-end accidents and a major rework of this road. The data we have supports these changes need to be made,” Kline said. “For now, as I have my daughter in the back seat waiting to turn, I can only hope I don’t get hit.”

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