US 281 in Burnet Co. slated for safety upgrades

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BURNET COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A cross on the side of the road marks the spot where 21-year-old Jamal Brown lost his life last month.

It’s one of two crashes state troopers spent Tuesday re-constructing, between Burnet and Marble Falls. The other deadly crash involved a Burnet County employee.

Burnet County Judge James Oakley says they lost county employee Benny Weems on March 7. They say Weems was driving north on U.S. 281 when an 18-wheeler tried to make a left turn out of a quarry and hit Benny’s dump truck.

The crash happened about a mile and a half south of where Brown was hit on U.S. 281. It’s a stretch of road Judge Oakley says is missing something. The problem starts on U.S. 281 at Park Road 4 where it goes down from five lanes to four lanes with no center turn lane and the speed limit is 70 mph.

Police say Brown was turning left on U.S. 281 when the car he was in was rear-ended.

“If it’s heavy traffic and you’re trying to turn in somewhere, you got to slow down real quick, someone’s coming right up behind you and there’s just no time,” says Joseph Robley, who drives on U.S. 281.

The county is now working with the Texas Department of Transportation to install turn lanes at a cost of $5.5 million. “There’s different levels within the TxDOT process, of planning, and design and environmental,” explains Oakley. TxDOT says the project is in the preliminary planning phase but the plan is currently slated to add a 14-foot center turn lane for a distance of about 3.5 miles and would include replacing a bridge. Funding for the project is expected to become available in the next year.

Drivers say the improvements can’t come soon enough. “That’s a higher priority than anything, second priority would be illumination,” says Robley.

There are sections of U.S. 281 that do have turn lanes: Burnet City limits to Park Road 4, and from FM 1855 into Marble Falls.

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