Weatherford Democrat

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August 14, 2012

TxDOT tackles highway shoulders, widening

WEATHERFORD —  

While highways serve as a necessary means of transportation throughout the state, they can also be extremely dangerous.

The Texas Department of Transportation is doing its part to promote its Texas Transportation Institute, which analyzes and reviews data for highways that have been widened.

The state-wide initiative focuses on improving conditions by adding highway shoulders and also increasing the width of the roadways.

“This is part of a good practice that we do anyway,” said Val Lopez, TxDOT’s area public information officer. “We go to various rural counties and add shoulders and width. Its a state-wide initiative that uses safety bond money, and it’s a good practice that we’ve always felt has saved lives.

“Now we have some hard evidence to support that.”

Studies conducted by the TTI show there have been more than 1,000 miles of highway shoulders added recently, with 133 fewer fatalities and 895 fewer injuries compared to prior to widening.

“What the study has determined is that over the next 20 years, this will save nearly 900 lives,” Lopez said.

Five major roadways in Parker County have affected by the change — FM 5 in two sections, FM 2257, also known as Knob Creek Rd., FM 920 and a section off of Zion Hill Rd., FM 2421.

“Safety is our top priority,” said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director. “The agency’s roadway widening initiative has been a tremendous success, both for increasing safety on Texas highways and potentially saving billions of dollars associated with fatal crashes and sustained injuries.”

In 2003, voters gave the Texas Transportation Commission the authority to issue $3 billion in bonds to pay for state highway improvements. The law stipulated that 20 percent of that amount must be used to fund projects that would reduce crashes or correct or improve hazardous locations on the state system. The Texas Legislature later increased the bonding authority to $6 billion.

TTI is also analyzing recently completed projects— mostly from the 2009 safety bond initiative. Among the 37 completed widening projects from that bond initiative, fatalities were reduced by an average of five annually. The $29 million construction cost for those 37 projects—through the 20-year life of the project—could save an estimated $456.4 million from fewer fatalities and serious injuries. 

For more information, visit www.txdot.gov.

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