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San Antonio’s Weirdest Intersection to Receive a Makeover

San Antonio motorists who have endured the traffic congestion where Harry Wurzbach Road goes under Austin Highway may look forward to a redesign meant to eliminate dangerous turns and frequent backups at the freeway interchange.

In a $22 million, two-year project to begin in February, the San Antonio intersection, near the intersection of Wurzbach and Eisenhauer Road, is to be redesigned as a single point urban interchange (SPUI), in which all traffic is controlled by one signal light, the San Antonio Express News explains. A single point interchange is an innovative design used to improve the efficiency of urban intersections. This will be the first SPUI in San Antonio and one of the few in Texas.

The newspaper describes the existing intersection as requiring drivers to execute “the Wurzbach Workaround” by cutting through either an H-E-B or Lowe’s parking lot to avoid backups and get access to the Austin Highway. The redesign will eliminate the lengthy stoplight, and a raised median is meant to prevent collisions.

“(B)y using the SPUI design over a traditional multi-lane interchange requiring flyovers, such as at Loop 1604 and U.S. 281, the new project will save an estimated $5 million to $7 million and a year of time,” the Express News says. “The city promises that all the area’s businesses will remain accessible during the construction.”

What is a Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI) Intersection?

The San Antonio transportation blog On The Move explains that an SPUI connects a freeway to a surface street with a single traffic signal that allows opposing left turns to be conducted simultaneously. That eliminates multiple traffic signal phases and traffic backups as cars wait for a turn arrow. It also eliminates the straight-through movement between the freeway ramps. A driver coming off the freeway must turn either left or right onto the cross street.

“The ‘single point intersection’ of a SPUI is where all four left turns cross,” the blog post explains. “Typically, at a freeway/cross street intersection, you have two separate intersections where left turns are made. With a SPUI, those are collapsed into one single intersection midway between where the two traditional intersections would be. Drivers turning left pass to each other’s right, just like at a regular intersection, although the angle of the left turns is notably ‘softer.’”

The author of that post, urban and regional planner Brian Purcell, fully explains and illustrates the project at Harry Wurzbach and Austin Highway at his The Texas Highway Man blog. “The new interchange will allow traffic to more easily and intuitively get from Harry Wurzbach to Austin Highway and vice-versa, reducing congestion at the Eisenhauer intersections and eliminating cut-through traffic in adjacent parking lots.”

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) explains and illustrates the SPUI concept in a fact sheet. It says a SPUI enhances safety and mobility by reducing potential crash points at intersections and by allowing more cars to move through an intersection. This means a reduction in both delay and travel time.

At a SPUI, according to TxDOT:

  • Through-traffic is able to bypass the intersection without stopping at a traffic signal
  • Additional “green time” at traffic signals improves travel time by allowing more vehicles to pass through the intersection
  • Additional sidewalks increase safety and better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Intersection design is relatively low cost and utilizes space more efficiently.

Do Most Car Accidents Happen at Intersections in Texas?

The TxDOT recently redesigned and reopened the intersection at Bandera Road (Texas 16) and Loop 1604 in San Antonio. The Texas Highway Man explains that project created another intersection design likely new to many drivers, called a Displaced Left Turn (DLT) intersection, or a Continuous Flow intersection. This is the first DLT in San Antonio, he says.

Why so much attention to intersections? The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) say about 40 percent of motor vehicle accidents in the United States are intersection-related.

The NHTSA says that, in 2018, 734 fatal accidents in Texas occurred within an intersection or within the approach to an intersection. Of those, 49 fatal intersection accidents occurred in Bexar County.

In a 2010 study of intersection accidents, the NHTSA found that 96 percent of intersection accidents were caused by driver error. The most common driver errors are:

  • Not looking before pulling ahead or turning (“inadequate surveillance”)
  • False assumption of what another driver is about to do 
  • Turning with an obstructed view
  • Illegal maneuvers, such as running red lights or stop signs, or illegal turns
  • Distracted driving, such as texting while driving
  • Misjudging another vehicle’s speed and/or the gap between vehicles.

In the study’s conclusion, the NHTSA refers to driving too fast for conditions and aggressive driving as contributors to intersection accidents.

The FHA says T-bone collisions, or angle-impact crashes, are the most common types of car accidents in intersections (47%) followed by single-vehicle accidents (30%). Opposite-direction crashes, including head-on and rear-end collisions, account for 15% and 6% of fatal intersection crashes, respectively.

Contact A San Antonio Car Accident Lawyer After an Intersection Accident

If you or a loved one has been injured in a collision someone else caused at a San Antonio intersection, the car accident attorneys of Herrman & Herrman may be able to help you. Under Texas law, you have two years from the date of an accident to file a personal injury claim for compensation to cover your losses in the accident, such as medical care costs and lost income.

Before accepting an insurance payment for injuries suffered in a car accident occurring at an intersection in Bexar County, let a knowledgeable attorney review your case and any settlement offers made to you during a free legal consultation. We may be able to do better for you. Call us today at (361) 882-4357, chat with us live 24/7, or fill out our online contact form to set up an appointment.