After multiple fatality wrecks on a stretch of Farm-to-Market Road 51 prompted residents to advocate for change — change is coming.
Texas Department of Transportation Public Information Officer Bethany Kurtz said, weather permitting, work will begin on the FM 51 projects on June 24.
“Blythe Construction will begin work at the Clear Fork Trinity River Bridge and proceed south. To facilitate this work, lane closures will be necessary. The closures will be restricted to the hours of 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. each day,” Kurtz said. “Flaggers and a pilot car will direct traffic at each end of the closure and at intersections. The traffic control plan also includes provisions for local traffic to access businesses and residences.”
Since January, there have been at least four confirmed fatalities resulting from car wrecks in a one- to two-mile stretch of FM 51, between Weatherford and Springtown.
The latest fatal accident occurred on June 16, when Kaylin Wells, 22, of Weatherford, and her unborn baby died after an accident on FM 51 near Bagget Road.
Residents shared their thoughts on the Weatherford Democrat’s Facebook page about FM 51 and the death of Wells and her unborn baby.
“[FM] 51 is such a dangerous road, everyone need to be super aware of themselves and the people driving around them on it,” Katie Morton said. “Something has to be done to make the road safer.”
Brittny Starr Hatchett said Wells will be greatly missed.
“My heart is so sad she was such an amazing mother and friend, prayers for her husband and son, they didn’t just lose their wife and mother but they lost a daughter and little sister as well,” Hatchett said. “She is going to be greatly missed. RIP Kaylin and baby Lilah.”
Hank Plitt said there has been a heavy DPS presence on the road lately.
“State police have been very heavy on it lately, but it is a farm-to-market road and people drive like it is a freeway,” Plitt said. “I have lived off 51 for 10 years and I can’t even use the turn lane to get to my house because people use it to pass. TxDOT has done nothing and disregard minimum sight distances required by law before allowing driveways and/or entrances to be built.”
Jessie Bird said a driver almost hit her head-on on FM 51.
“I had a guy that nearly hit me head on passing in a no-pass zone. That was just a few days ago,” Bird said. “People disregard all of their common sense as if driving isn’t one of the most dangerous things that we do. Prayers for the family.”
Another accident on Feb. 9 claimed the life of 22-year-old Haley Brumley, of Alvord, at the intersection of FM 51 and Veal Station Road.
On Jan. 28, 6-year-old Silvia Ponce, of Weatherford, was killed when the vehicle she was riding in was struck from behind on FM 51 at Stonebridge Drive.
Ponce’s death prompted residents to create the Facebook group, Safety is No Accident: Widen North 51, to advocate for change. The group has now climbed to 1,042 members.
“We started this page after Silvia Ponce, 6 years old, lost her life while her mom sat and waited to turn into her neighborhood. There was nowhere for her mom to wait and turn out of traffic,” the Facebook group creator Ashley James said. “Just days ago another fatal collision. Had the Nissan had a decent shoulder to swerve away from the oncoming vehicle, would this whole family still be here today? We will never know if we don’t try.”
Ted Long, who lives on Hall Road off FM 51, said something has to be done.
“We’ve had six fatalities out here within a mile, mile and a half, in the last year — and I don’t include all the wrecks with injuries that aren’t fatalities — and something has to be done. I get tired of people getting killed right here in front of my house,” Long said. “I’ve seen all the studies I need. It’s ridiculous the amount of accidents we’ve had out here. I know we have a whole lot more traffic out here than we use to have and everybody drives faster and texting, and all that stuff.”
The $8 million rehabilitation project will start at the Union Pacific railroad crossing, just north of U.S. 180 in Weatherford, and is estimated for completion in the summer of 2020, Kurtz said.
The project will include repaving the roadway and the addition of turn lanes at four intersections — North Bend Road, a southbound center left-turn only lane and northbound right-turn only lane; Stonebridge Court, a southbound center left-turn only land and northbound right-turn only lane; Old Agnes Road/Old Springtown Road, right-turn only lanes will be added in both directions; and Friendship Road, a northbound right-turn only lane.