A dangerous stretch of SH 123 just beyond Hays County and the San Marcos CISD has residents campaigning for improvements. An especially concerning location is the intersection of SH 123 and Ridge Road (above). Photo by Christina Zambrano.
By CHRISTINA ZAMBRANO
When Rosemary Alcala leaves in the evening to go home after working at her convenience store on Ridge Road in Guadalupe County, less than a mile south of the Hays County line, she waits cautiously in her car before making a left turn north onto SH 123, examining a hill that creates a blind spot.
“I drive to the highway and I make sure there is not a single car before I take off and go home, because I know I will be safe and no one will hit me from behind,” Alcala said. “All I have to worry about is incoming traffic.”
The blind spots along SH 123, coupled with a 70 miles per hour speed limit, lack of turn lanes or traffic signals at busy intersections, and increased traffic flow, has made SH 123 “extremely dangerous,” in the words of many local drivers.
Of particular concern is a stretch in Guadalupe County from the Hays County line to FM 1101. The intersection of Ridge Road and and SH 123 is about one-half mile south of the Hays County line and San Marcos CISD’s southern boundary, and about three miles south of that district’s Bowie Elementary School and San Marcos High School.
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) statistics show 1,482 on SH 123 through Guadalupe County from the Hays County line to the Wilson County line from the start of January 2003 until the end of 2008. Fatalities resulted from 16 of those crashes.
From the Hays County line to FM 1101, TxDOT registers 168 crashes, including four fatal crashes, during that same time frame. Another 12 crashes resulted in injuries. Two of the fatal crashes occured in 2005, another in 2007 and another in 2008.
As a result of growing frustration and fear of danger, Alcala called a meeting earlier this month at a San Marcos residence for community members and city officials to discuss possible safety improvements on SH 123. Among those in attendance were Hays County Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (D-San Marcos), San Marcos City Councilmember Pam Couch and 20-year-old Texas State student Josefina Ibarra, whose 18-year-old sister died in a wreck on SH 123 last month.
As a clerk working in the Ridge Road convenience store for several years, Alcala said she has seen more than ten accidents, fatal and otherwise, on SH 123. The most recent fatality occured on Jan. 9, when 18-year-old Samantha Ibarra came to a stop at the intersection with Ridge Road and waited to make a left turn. A driver rear-ended Ibarra’s car from behind, sending her into south bound traffic, where she was hit by a dump truck. Ibarra died on the scene.
Area residents are circulating a petition calling for more turn lanes to help prevent future accidents, adequate shoulders, reductions in speed limit and traffic signals at heavily traveled intersections.
Residents in the affected portions of Guadalupe County said they’re upset that Guadalupe County officials didn’t attend the meeting Alcala set up in San Marcos. Guadalupe County Commissioner Cesareo Guadarrama said there was confusion and miscommunication about the meeting.
“So far this issue has not come to our commissioner’s court,” Guadarrama said. “We weren’t in the loop about the meeting. The City of Seguin, San Marcos and Hays County were invited to the meeting, and, by the time we found out about it, it was too late.”
Though Guadarrama missed the meeting, he said he is concerned about the lack of safety on SH 123.
“The entire length of this (SH) is a concern to everyone,” he said. “I’m meeting with TxDOT on Wednesday on an unrelated matter but I will discuss this issue with them.”
Guadarrama added that SH 123 is a state highway and, therefore, “it’s a state issue. There isn’t a lot the county can do other than create a resolution, bring awareness to TxDOT and show support. Money is tight with TxDOT right now, so to do a project on (SH) 123 would require a lot of money.”
Ingalsbe also cited funding as an obstacle for addressing SH 123.
“With any project, funding is an issue,” Ingalsbe said. “This is why projects many times are delayed, because there is little to no funding allocated to a project. We need to let TxDOT know that this is a priority.”
Ingelsbe added that she is working with Guadalupe County officials to raise awareness from TxDOT.
Alcala has obtained more than 800 petition signatures and numerous letters from residents expressing their safety concerns about SH 123. Alcala said she will send the letters and petition signatures to local, state and federal officials.
“I’m making six copies of all the petitions and every one of these (officials) is going to get the petition plus all the letters I get from people and their comments,” she said.
Alcala’s list includes Guadarrama, Guadalupe County Commissioner Judy Cope, TxDOT San Antonio district engineer Gregory Malatek, U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), Texas State Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio), andTexas State Representative Edmund Kuempel (R-Seguin).
Ibarra has contributed to the petition by obtaining over 300 signatures in her history class at Texas State. Ibarra, along with other volunteers, has also set up a table in the LBJ Student Center on campus this week, until Thursday, to get more signatures.
“We’re probably at 1,000 (signatures) but we’re trying to get as many as we can,” Ibarra said.
As a result of the death of her sister and countless others, Ibarra has made this project her personal mission.
“I love my sister so much and I feel like it’s a responsibility for me to do this for her and for other people, because there have been other people who died on that highway. Some don’t die on the scene like my sister did, but they die hours later in the hospital and they’re not counted for in the statistics. I hope that this would bring closure for our family and relief for those that are victims of that highway.”Email | Print