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1626 construction causes woes

The Free Press of Buda, Texas

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Safety comes at a price for local business owner

Living in a home that's a two-thirds scale replica of the Alamo since 2003, Douglas Dear is now fighting his own battle to keep his business afloat, despite the reconstruction on FM1626.

Dear and his wife, Cynthia, knew how busy FM 1626 could become. With an estimated 13,000 vehicles passing by their home each day, they knew the road would eventually have to be widened. That day came in late 2012.

The Dears now do their best to work around the constant construction. It's all in the name of safety for customers who visit the two businesses - raising cattle and selling fireworks - they operate from their property.

Douglas Dear worries about the safety of customers entering his business, as FM 1626 construction takes place directly in front of his property. The construction causes visibility issues, specifically upon exiting and entering.

Entering the Dear property was already an issue customers dealt with prior to construction. Now it's worse, since the majority of their driveway was removed.

As a result, customers often drive right by the entrance. Others slow down to try to spot the right place to turn. The Dears opted not to post a sign for their businesses.

Exiting the property is an equally dicey situation, as elevation changes lead to a lack of visibility on a roadway where the speed limit is above 45 miles per hour.

It is due to construction that several close calls and several collisions have occurred. Many of the close calls hail from the lack of attentive reactions from those who don't make stops on FM 1626.

"If people are not realizing you are trying to turn, they will run into you," Douglas said said.

Problems may hit the forefront this year, specifically with Douglas' fireworks stand, as it's one of the few not affected by city legislation.

With Buda, Austin and Kyle all having ordinances restricting fireworks sales within 5,000 feet of city limits, Douglas' stand in the City of Hays remains unaffected.

And with no burn ban in place, he believes more customers will visit his kiosk this year.

But the added patronage brings additional problems, including the need to safely bring in people, and get them out.

Construction has already affected the stand itself. Because he lost some of his property, Dear had to move his stand 100 feet to allow more parking.

He also had to spend money on electricians, who came out to install light fixtures to help customers find the entrance. He's also bought many reflective cones to aid the process.

In addition, he hired parking attendants, to help customers deal with getting back onto FM 1626.

All this to accommodate the influx of fireworks aficionados. Dear has already seen a 20 percent increase in sales from last New Year's, but it's come at a cost of $3,000.

"It is costing me more to deal with the challenges of road construction," he said.

While it has been an inconvenience, Dear firmly believes Hays County must widen FM 1626.

The need was heightened a few years ago, when Star Flight landed on his property to transport a patient involved in a serious wreck on the roadway.

From 2009-2011, Dear said there were "two major wrecks "per year on FM 1626.

Earlier this year, Buda resident Trisha Foulkrod died in a crash in the construction zone — the speed of the cement mixer that struck her was a potenial cause in the fatality. County commissioners lowered the speed limit during the construction zone following that accident.

Dear said many near misses happen near his home, which sits at the base of a large, blind hill west of Leisure Woods.

He has observed eastbound drivers attempting to bypass slower traffic by crossing into westbound lanes on the two-lane road, despite double yellow lines dictating its illegal nature.

But for Dear, it makes sense to complete the construction, even if it affects his business in the short term.

"I'm more worried about safety [of my customers] than having lots of business," he said. "I'd hate to be the reason someone has a bad accident," he said.

Copyright 2014 The Free Press, Buda, Texas. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 1, 2014

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