BASTROP COUNTY, Texas — TxDOT hopes road improvements to US 290 make the highway to Houston a lot safer.
The department is building a median on an eight-mile stretch between Elgin and Giddings.
Construction on the project started late last week. Crews have already started clearing out trees to widen the stretch of highway.
"Dangerous,” is one word Randy Brown uses to describe Highway 290.
Brown drives to and from the Houston area on 290 from Central Texas daily for work.
"About twice a day,” said Brown.
There are portions of highway between Elgin and Giddings where there is no median and it is 70 mph.
TxDOT said it is turning 290 East into a divided highway with both a grassy median and cable barriers.
It is also adding shoulders on both the left- and right-hand side and will also add turning lanes "where necessary."
"Our goal is to complete all those gaps in there where there isn't a divided highway and ultimately make it a four-lane divided highway,” said Diann Hodges, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation.
Last year, eight people died on 290 between Elgin and Giddings. That is up from three in 2017.
"If you don't have a center turn lane or grassy median, people aren't paying attention,” said Hodges. “They might cross over.”
In December, three young men from Giddings died on this stretch of highway. They were friends of Jacob McClenny, who said people drive too fast.
“Put your foot to the pedal,” he said. “All the way down. That's how most people drive."
TxDOT said the speed limit will stay the same, because most of the work will be outside traffic. Construction on this project is expected to finish in summer 2021.
There is more traffic on 290 from Austin to Houston too.TxDOT estimates a 57 percent increase in 20 years.