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HELOTES, Texas – More than 150 area residents charged Monday that a recently built curve in the road near two of the city’s largest institutions endangers lives.
The intersection, which features a concrete wall that some drivers say has created a blind spot, could prove deadly with motorists whipping around the curve at high speeds, according to COPS Metro Alliance. On Monday, leaders from community coalition COPS Metro brought representatives from the Texas Department of Transportation, the mayor of Helotes, and other elected officials to a public meeting at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.
They discussed the intersection of Farm Road 1560 and Riggs Road, which is near the church and Helotes Elementary School. Tensions rose as parishioners testified about their own accidents while driving to and from Our Lady of Guadalupe. Jeanette Enriquez said she goes to Mass regularly, and fears for her safety whenever she drives back from the church.
“I’ve been hit once going back home because I live on the other side of 1604,” Enriquez said. “You cannot see anything. And everyone whips around that corner as fast as they can.”
The intersection residents described allows drivers to go straight, left, and right from Riggs Road onto FM 1560. A low curved wall at the intersection obscures motorists’ sightline and increases their chances of being struck by another vehicle, they argued. COPS Metro dubbed it a “deadly curve” in a news release.
The intersection was completed in October 2018 and has had four collisions since then, Helotes Mayor Tom Schoolcraft said.
Audience members pushed TxDOT to approve a temporary measure Monday to slow traffic at the intersection. Suggestions included traffic lights, stop signs, and lowered speed limits. COPS Metro leader Steve Mendoza echoed the crowd’s restlessness, demanding immediate change at the intersection.
“We want a solution and we want it today,” he said. “That wall is going to come down.”
While TxDOT representatives said they could not commit to dismantling the wall, they suggested trimming trees around that area to give drivers more open space in their sightline. Advanced Planning Director Clayton Ripps also recommended installing a “no left turn” sign to help alleviate safety concerns, which provoked audience members into a rumble of disagreement.
“We’re hearing [that] you want the immediate safest solution,” Ripps said. “The safest solution is to prevent that left movement where you have difficulty seeing.”
Schoolcraft urged residents and COPS Metro leaders to slow their expectations, as traffic solutions do not happen instantaneously.
“You’re expecting TxDOT to do something immediately,” Schoolcraft said. “I’ve learned you need to learn patience. They understand the urgency here. I’m really surprised at the overall atmosphere in here because these guys are here to listen and help.”
Schoolcraft also said he was surprised by the intensity of residents’ disapproval of the intersection because he had not heard any complaints come through City Hall. Schoolcraft, who first was elected in 2007 as mayor, was part of the planning process for that intersection starting in 2008. Construction at the intersection started in the fall of 2017 and was completed last fall.
“Before this project was even undertaken, we had at least three or four public meetings,” he said. “We had hundreds of folks give input. That’s how this overall design was implemented.”
Schoolcraft, COPS Metro leaders, and TxDOT agreed to meet again in three weeks. The organizations and the City of Helotes will also review possible temporary solutions to implement before then, including prohibiting left turns, trimming trees, and adding additional signage at the intersection curve.