BLANCO COUNTY, TX (KXAN) — Since at least November, just before the Hays County line, two Texas Department of Transportation trucks have closed the entire right-hand lane of eastbound Highway 290.
TxDOT workers parked them, and never moved them again.
Our investigative team noticed them on Jan. 24 while out near Johnson City on an unrelated news investigation. It appeared then that the trucks had been there a while. A tipster emailed our investigates tip line Thursday night wanting to know why TxDOT left this taxpayer-owned equipment there and seemingly forgot about it.
The tipster wrote in the email that he first noticed the trucks there around November. That was around the time a truck crashed into the guardrail and tore a long section of it down.
“In order to protect the traveling public, we placed a truck designed specifically for this purpose – to act as a barrier to protect drivers while we designed a new upgraded rail that could not be installed through our existing guard fence repair contracts,” TxDOT spokeswoman Diann Hodges told KXAN in an email Friday.
We wanted to know why—in seven months—the agency didn’t hire a contractor to replace the guardrail and get the lane re-opened.
“Our design standards have changed since this bridge rail was first installed, and we could not replace it as originally designed,” Hodges wrote, “The new higher rail is safer and designed to accommodate higher traveling speeds and larger vehicles that use the bridge.”
The damaged guardrail attaches to a concrete bridge that spans the width of the McCall Creek. The guardrail was ripped away from the side of the bridge, leaving a long drop off from the side of Highway 290 down into the creek below.
Construction is scheduled to begin next week on the guardrail replacement, according to TxDOT. The plan is to install the redesigned guardrail on the damaged section of the eastbound side of Highway 290, then the existing guardrail on the westbound side will be replaced with a redesigned guardrail.
TxDOT expects the entire project to wrap up around mid-July and all lanes of Highway 290 to be reopened.