There are no shoulders, railings or turn lanes along dangerous stretches of RM 1826, and local leaders want something done to make the road safe. – photo by Penny Levers
by Bobbie Jean Sawyer
It’s no secret that Austin’s population boom has impacted traffic on every major thoroughfare in the city. But the increase in development in Oak Hill and formerly rural Travis County areas has taken a toll on smaller roads as well and many residents fear the worst is yet to come.
RM-1826 was once a quiet country road stretching from Austin to Camp Ben McCulloch and the Salt Lick BBQ. But Aan Coleman, an Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods (OHAN) board member and a resident of Lewis Mountain Ranch, says just turning into her subdivision off of RM-1826 is a risky move.
“People are right on my bumper as I turn in my neighborhood,” Coleman said. “There’s just no way that road can accommodate the traffic it has on it.”
Coleman said in the nine years she’s lived off of RM-1826 she’s seen development increase dramatically due to residential lots and subdivisions being built further down RM-1826 toward Driftwood.
“What was once very rural is now very suburban,” Coleman said.
RM-1826 is lacking in even the most basic safety standards, Coleman said, and the lack of turn lanes is a risk for the many cyclists who use the road.
“There are actually lots of blind curves in the road. When bicycles get on the road people try to pass and I’m shocked at times. You can’t really see oncoming traffic but people do it anyway,” Coleman said. “Because there’s no turning lane the same thing happens. When you’re turning you take up the only lane. People actually try to pass people who are trying to turn.”
Rick Perkins, a Granada Hills resident and OHAN secretary, said the first goal is to get TxDOT and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to recognize the safety concerns. Perkins said he wants to see left hand turns into subdivisions and shoulders added to the road.
“It’s one of those deals where if somebody doesn’t say something about it, it doesn’t necessarily get any attention,” Perkins said.
RM-1826 is currently in the CAMPO plan designated as a Mad 4, a road with two lanes on each side with a median in the middle for turning, but the project has been dormant for years.
Alex Kone, a CAMPO planner and member of the Planning and Environment Team, which focuses on transportation safety, said while RM-1826 is listed in the CAMPO plan, no funding is currently tied to the project.
Kone said RM-1826 is part of an illustrative list of plans, a type of backup list of possible future projects.
“It’s really there to preserve right-of-way for perhaps a future project that may be funded in the future,” Kone said.
Kone said while roadway funding can come from a multitude of sources, the Highway Safety Improvement Program typically funds capital projects and operational programs.
Kone said TxDOT is responsible for evaluating safety concerns by identifying where crashes have happened and where crashes could be reduced. Funding for the project would be selected, allocated and managed by TxDOT.
Both Coleman and Perkins believe the proximity of the Slaughter Creek Preserve to RM-1826 could bring the city’s attention to the safety issues on the road, as RM-1826 is the only entrance to the trail.
Coleman said the Slaughter Creek wildlands, which brings horseback riders near an increasingly busy roadway just 20 minutes from downtown, represents the juxtaposition of rural and suburban life in southwest Austin.
“The country met the city right there on 1826,” Coleman said.
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