By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News
With homes in both Montview Harbor and Hidden Valley, resident Becky Dewan has been a part-timer in the Four Points neighborhood, having owned property in the community since 2012. Last year, her family permanently moved into their vacation home off Low Water Crossing Road.
“There’s a significant portion of (residents) who have weekend places so you don’t see all of the traffic accidents if you’re just there on the weekend,” Dewan said.
Before becoming a full time resident, she said she was “well aware” of how dangerous the route was from the neighborhood and onto RM 620. Dewan said it’s not residents who are involved in the traffic accidents occurring in the area but visitors. She has always required her three sons, who are now between 20 and 28 years old, to drive on a path that goes under RM 620, the road many other locals take in and out of the neighborhood. That roadway is an alternative to turning left and across four lanes of RM 620 traffic to enter the community from the north. Although it’s longer, she said the route is safer to travel.
“That’s the rule in my house and if I catch them not doing that — if they’re not using that underpass — the boys are really in trouble with me because we’ve just seen too much happen,” Dewan said.
However, over the past few months, she said accidents at the RM 620 and Low Water Crossing intersection have intensified.
“I don’t recall any stretch of time where we have had three or more (collisions),” Dewan said, adding that a July 31 accident removed a portion of the guardrail in the area. “We have less traffic and people may be driving faster and it’s summer so we may have more people visiting people who live on the lake but aren’t familiar with that intersection.”
Traffic statistics show the area has had its share of summertime issues for years.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, three collisions occurred at or near the intersection from May 10 to Aug. 10, with two of the traffic accidents resulting in no injuries and one with two serious injuries including a citation issued to a vehicle driver for failing to yield at the intersection’s stop sign.
Last year in 2019, during that same time period, three collisions also occurred at or near the RM 620 and Low Water Crossing intersection, with one traffic accident resulting in three injuries. A citation was issued for one of the crashes, and the driver was charged with following a vehicle too closely. Notes from another collision involving a vehicle hitting a fixed object showed contributing factors that included speeding and driver inattention. A third collision report included notes that the driver was inattentive as well as a wild animal was on the road.
In 2018, three non injury crashes occurred within the identical May to August time frame, with two collisions involving citations — one driver was charged with driving at an unsafe speed and another with driving while intoxicated and at an unsafe speed. Notes from a third crash showed the driver changed lanes when it was unsafe to do so.
Four Points resident Tom Sapio, who has lived in his Hummingbird Lane home for almost five decades, said he was initially drawn to the area for its “quaintness” and “quiet,” attributes that no longer exist due to population growth and traffic expansion.
“Here where we live, it’s still pretty much quiet; that hasn’t changed,” he said. “But getting out, above the highway on (RM) 620 from Low Water Crossing Road, you’re taking your life in your hands when you go up there.”
Sapio attributes the collisions to the added traffic to two parks open in the area.
Dewan said there may be something about that intersection that allows drivers to misjudge the speed of oncoming cars so “you think you can make it” across RM 620.
“I hate it so bad for young drivers because they have not had the experience yet to gauge the speed of oncoming traffic,” she said. “And that is from what I’ve heard second hand, that is what some of the people hit say, that it didn’t look like the people coming north (from Mansfield Dam) were going that fast.”
Dewan said she was surprised that so many of the incidents occurred in broad daylight as opposed to nighttime.
She and Sapio advocate adding a traffic light to the intersection as a safety measure, a position the neighborhood took a few years ago when the Lower Colorado River Authority planned to expand its Jessica Hollis Park located off Low Water Crossing Road.
“We pointed out that (the improvements) would bring a lot more people into the neighborhood that had not been there possibly,” Dewan said.
That measure never happened.
In 2015, TxDOT conducted a signal analysis for the intersection of Low Water Crossing and RM 620 but, at the time, the site didn’t meet the criteria for a signal, spokesperson Bradley Wheelis said.
“In Austin, we all know that there have been a lot of fatal accidents on (RM) 2222,” Dewan said. “But the word just hasn’t gotten out about this particular intersection on (RM) 620. Everybody needs to really slow down and be careful there.”