The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
In the fiscal year of 2012, 3,399 people traveling the Texas highways perished in automobile accidents.
As of July, this year has seen more than half that number of fatalities. With 1,703 so far, and 100 in the past week, it is likely last year’s number will be eclipsed.
“Over the last two years, that’s almost 5,000 people that have not reached their destination,” said Tucker Ferguson, district engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Beaumont District, at a meeting on Tuesday morning. “We look at every one of those accident reports to see how we could have made a difference.”
Although a large portion of highway fatalities are due to alcohol or other substances, distracted driving or the absence of a seat belt, that doesn’t mean TxDOT isn’t doing all it can to allay the pain caused by automobile accidents, Ferguson said at a breakfast on Tuesday morning.
“Safety is a common thread through everything we do,” Ferguson said. “With funding limitations, a lot of times the projects we’ll do are safety projects only.”
Addressing congestion is a stepping stone toward road safety, Ferguson said. Although eliminating congestion is impossible, some mitigation can be achieved.
“We will be adding some lanes to get additional capacity on the roadway,” he said. “But unfortunately we’re not ever going to be able to build our way out of congestion.”
TxDOT has also implemented changeable message signs that alert drivers to the current traffic conditions. This is especially relevant, Ferguson said, to those who are merging onto I-10 from Hwy 69, or vice versa.
“We just want to give as much information to travelers as possible so they can make the decision whether or not to take that road,” he said.
Sarah Dupre, public information officer for TxDOT Beaumont District, spoke of projects taking place on a more local scale. The district is currently spending approximately $23 million in Port Arthur alone.
The largest of these projects is taking place on FM 365, Dupre said — taking the stretch from 69 to West Port Arthur Road and transforming it from two lanes into four lanes with a turning lane.
Dupre expects the project to be completed by the end of September. TXDot is also installing high-mass lighting at the Texas 73 and U.S. 69 cloverleaf, which should be completed in several weeks.
“It’s really going to make that area a lot brighter at night time,” she said.
Sea Rim State is a hub of activity, with TxDOT installing roads, drainage systems and multiple parking lots. In the upcoming months, the district will work on the Texaco Bridge, the Crane Bayou Bridge, and add rumble strips extending from the Chambers County line to Taylor Bayou on Texas 73.
“That makes it a lot easier if you fall asleep or get distracted and go towards the shoulder,” Dupre said. “That’ll wake you up.”
Transportation is an essential component of everyday life, Ferguson said, and for one simple reason.
“Without a good solid transportation network, it’s very difficult to move your product, goods and people from point A to point B,” he said.