SAN ANTONIO – Concerns over safety are at the heart of a West Bexar County neighborhood's efforts to get a stoplight put in at one entrance of their neighborhood.
During the morning and evening rush hours, school buses, commuters and construction vehicles stack up 10-20 deep waiting for a break in traffic to turn onto or off Potranco Road. The speed limit is 50 miles per hour where it crosses Bella Vista Place.
The intersection has an established neighborhood with two elementary schools on one side of Potranco Road, and a new development will also have an elementary school on the other side.
The developer of the new Arcadia subdivision is working on an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation to pay the lion's share for installing a stop light to regulate traffic.
For nearly two years, the Bella Vista Homeowners Association for the more established subdivision has been asking for, and even petitioning, to get a stoplight. Members collected 300 signatures in 2015 asking for the signal light. They met with State Rep. Rick Galindo, Bexar County officials and The Texas Department of Transportation.
In March 2015, TxDOT did three traffic volume studies to see if a light was warranted. Two showed it was not. However, one that measured traffic during rush hours did show a need for a stop light.
"That was good news for all of us. We thought we had gotten the traffic light we had sorely needed," said Darren Bond, who lives in the Bella Vista subdivision. The Defenders spoke with him and TxDOT spokesman Josh Donat for our first story in March 2016.
We asked Donat why a light didn't go up immediately after the results of the third study showed there was a need for one.
"Congestion issues here are limited to a two-hour segment of a 24-hour day. This places the intersection on a watch list, but does not warrant immediate action on placing a signal at this location,” Donat said. "We're working with the local developer to have that signal up by the end of the summer."
Summer 2016 came and went, but still no stop light was set up.
On Oct. 25, Sarah Lerma was heading home. Her daily commute takes her past the intersection.
"I was coming down Potranco heading home and a car coming out of Bella Vista just came out of traffic and we hit,” she said.
Lerma said the crash smashed up the front of her car and left her banged up with bruises from her seat belt and air bag.
"I can imagine the people that live there in Bella Vista how frustrating it is that they're not able to pull out of traffic properly there,” she said.
After her wreck, Lerma contacted The Defenders to ask why there's still no light at Potranco Road and Bella Vista Place.
Donat answered our questions by email:
What has delayed the installation?
“Negotiations with the private developers to determine financial responsibility levels for this intersection have been the greatest contributor to our delay. Notably the developer of the Bella Vista neighborhood, which has the greater need for this signal, cited a lack of need while refusing participation in this intersection after several months of discussion.”
What is the timeline now for installation?
“We now have an agreement in place for this work and are meeting with the folks from CTMGT next week to discuss specifics of the timeline. Perhaps most important is our projected start date is, right now, mid-November. We anticipate having the signal in place and operational in time for Christmas.”
Who is responsible for the installation?
“CTMGT, the developer behind the Arcadia development, will contract the work for this signal.”
Who is paying for the installation?
“CTMGT is providing approximately $160,000 for the engineering and installation of this signal. We have provided materials equaling about $50,000 in value to ensure this is done sooner rather than later.”
Do the number of wrecks or whether those incidents involve injuries have any impact on the timeline for installing the light?
“No, they do not. This location has continued to be a priority item for us since it became an issue a year ago.”
Since the beginning of 2015, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office has responded to at least 15 crashes at the intersection, five of them involving injuries.
The Defenders will continue to follow this story to let you know when the stoplight at the corner of Potranco Road and Bella Vista Place is up and working to help make the intersection safer.