Sometimes that peaceful, easy Glen Rose feeling gets interrupted — if only for a few minutes — around the downtown square.
Unsuspecting southwest-bound drivers on Northeast Barnard Street (State Highway 144) approaching the four-way stop at Elm Street (144/56 South) occasionally find themselves in shock looking into the grill of an oncoming 18-wheel transport truck.
Patient and prudent driving habits don’t always prevail in such high-stress situations.
Drivers waiting at the stop sign heading southwest either to continue on Southwest Barnard Street or to turn onto Elm find that they have to back up from the intersection or pull over far to the right to allow enough space for the 18-wheelers to make their wide right turns.
There are no recent reports of major accidents or even road rage incidents there. But with panicky drivers quickly shifting into reverse or suddenly having to dart to the right to avoid a collision with a wide-turning transport truck, how long can that good fortune continue?
J. Weldon Bridges, manager of Jack Bridges Insurance and Realty, said he has seen several of the big rigs actually drive around on the other (courthouse) side — going around the line of vehicles in line at the stop sign on N.E. Barnard — when turning right. The far side of the street there is set off with a solid while line, reserved for courthouse parking although it’s not often used.
“It’s a little bit unnerving,” said Stacy McFaddin, who operates Texas Treasures two doors down from that hot corner and sometimes sit out front to watch what she referred to as a circus.
She has been in business about 14 months there, but has yet to witness a serious accident.
“Constantly, cars are having to back up, so it’s just a matter of time,” McFaddin said. “They put it in reverse. You hear horns honking and people are ticked off. It’s kind of like a three-ring circus. There are a lot of things to navigate.”
Bob “Grandpa” Swanton, who works at Lost in Time across from the courthouse, said he sees it as a “heck of a problem.”
“In many cases, it’s confusing to those turning,” Swanton said. “Then they get out of sequence of the stop and go. Some of these guys don’t know how to drive. Some of them get kind of angry and honk their horns.”
The tight turn is not a new problem for the semis coming through town. But some changing factors have have made things worse over the years, according to City Council member Dennis Moore.
The number of semis coming through has increased, in part because a gravel plant was opened south of town on SH 56 in the White Church area southesast of town.
Moore also noted that the amount of regular traffic is also heavier through the downtown area because of the town’s growth, particularly in new housing additions in that area, plus the town’s increasing popularity among tourists.
“I think it’s a combination of all those things,” Moore said. “We’ve got more cars turning there, and that accentuates the problem with the trucks. All this is creating the perfect storm.”
Moore said that potential solutions have been discussed for more than a decade, and TxDOT was made aware of the problem years ago.
Because it’s a state highway location, any solution such as building a bridge over the Paluxy River in a different spot to re-route the heavy commercial trucks, would strictly be the responsibility of — TxDOT.
Moore said that TxDOT had indicated several years ago that “they’re working on” finding a solution.
However, a response from a spokesman for TxDOT on Tuesday indicated that the problem may no longer be on the radar for a future project.
“I spoke to our Area Engineer in the Glen Rose area and our Transportation Engineer in our Traffic department and neither of them are aware of this occurring,” said Natalie Galindo, a spokesperson in TxDOT’s Fort Worth office.
The owner of Strut Your Stuff at the other end of the square — on Walnut Street where the traffic on N.E. Barnard does not have a stop sign — would like to see a crosswalk and maybe even speed bumps added.
The speed limit there is 30 mph, but many vehicles appear to be traveling at higher speeds.
“I do think for the safety of our customers we do need crosswalks,” Barb Briscoe said. “Cars are coming at a pretty good speed. I wouldn’t mind having a couple of speed bumps. There’s nothing that tells you you’re coming up on the square. We just want people safe. Prevention is the key.”
Briscoe also addressed the issue of the trucks making the wide turns at the next intersection, noting that oncoming drivers often don’t seem to realize how much space the big rigs need to make that turn.
“I’m not going to blame it all on the truckers,” Briscoe said. “Ninety-nine percent of the drivers are respectful.”