Photo: Mike Fisher
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Downtown’s notorious truck trap, the Finesilver Curve, a quick right-leaning turn that links Interstate 35 South with Interstate 10 West, will be closed today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. so crews can “proactively improve” the troublesome ramp.
Named for the historic factory building beneath it, the devilishly-tight curve has more than a dozen warning signs and pavement markings alerting drivers to its 25-mph speed limit but continues to topple big trucks about once a month.
It happened again Friday morning when an 18-wheeler loaded with 45,000 pounds of grapes crashed there. Police said the driver, who was not injured, was not going the speed limit. As usual, the wreck closed the ramp for hours.
The Texas Department of Transportation said it has received some federal funds to help remedy the ramp, which engineers say can’t feasibly be made longer and wider without demolishing houses in the neighborhood below.
Among those safety improvements are: refreshed pavement markings, closely spaced reflective pavement markers, additional signage and LED chevrons to reinforce visibility.
The detours for the repair, which began Tuesday, are for southbound drivers on I-10 to use exit 155A to South Alamo Street, then turn around to access I-35 northbound. Those heading west can use exit 156 to access I-10.
State engineers, truckers and personal injury lawyers agree the ramp design primarily is to blame, but they also say trucks often are overloaded and top-heavy, some of their drivers poorly trained and virtually every motorist more distracted than they used to be.
In the most spectacular of the many mishaps, in December 1999, the driver of a tanker truck survived a crash on the Finesilver Curve that spilled some 4,500 gallons of hydrochloric acid, causing the evacuation of thousands from a 3-square-mile area and sending 11 people to hospitals with burning eyes and lungs.
Personal injury lawyer Jamie Shaw of the Carabin & Shaw firm said last year of the dreaded curve: “If the state knows they’re having one truck rollover a month on that curve, they are playing a form of Russian roulette, hoping this won’t kill someone. They must assemble engineers and begin the process of redesigning it.”
TxDOT said it’s doing just that, embarking upon a long-term “feasibility study” for downtown roads that will address the Finesilver Curve and a host of other exits, entrances and road configurations.