If you’ve been noticing more car accidents around the city, it’s not your imagination.
Crashes in the TxDOT Odessa district, encompassing 12 counties including Midland and Ector counties, are up 40 percent and fatalities are up 58 percent from Jan. 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2012, Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance President James Beauchamp said during the Odessa Development Corporation meeting Thursday.
“We have immature transportation systems that were never really developed,” Beauchamp said after the meeting. “We have an enormous amount of traffic and because of that, an enormous amount of crashes and fatalities. We’re only about 2 percent of the state population but our areas have explosive growth. We have some drivers out there that get frustrated and make very poor decisions, but at the end of the day it’s because of the immature infrastructure.”
Those numbers represent about 6.25 percent of crashes and 9.5 percent of fatalities in Texas in 2012, he said.
Out of the 254 counties in Texas, Odessa was number 12 out of 254 for fatalities in 2012, he said.
“The state needs to put some money back out here to expand capacity first and foremost,” Beauchamp said. “At this point, we’re so far behind out here when you look at other communities I would have a hard time putting a number to it, but I would anticipate for Ector County both to make the improvements to the interstate, where we have ramps backing up, and improve those overpasses, you’re probably looking easily at $300 to $400 million.”
Mayor David Turner said those numbers don’t surprise him.
“With the traffic and all the people moving in it’s hard not to notice it on the roads,” Turner said over the phone Thursday.
Turner said the “safe zones” the Odessa Police Department periodically designates to increase traffic enforcement will, officials hope, help lower the number of accidents.
The city also is looking at a couple of different options to help alleviate the problem but Turner wouldn’t say what those options are because he doesn’t know if they’re possible yet.
“We’re waiting for some information to get back,” Turner said. “We’re looking to see if they’re feasible. I’m trying, but I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up.”
Odessa Director of Traffic Engineering Hal Feldman said he was a little surprised by the numbers.
“That seems high,” Feldman said. “I thought we were more on track. I think people are driving a lot more aggressively now.”
Beauchamp was in Austin last week testifying on behalf of Texas House Bill 1336, which would take money from the Rainy Day Fund and apply it back to transportation needs in energy impacted areas like the Permian Basin, he said.
“I’m pretty confident they’ll do something this legislative session, which ends in May,” Beauchamp said. “I think they’ll do something to provide some resources back to areas like ours. Regardless of the exact amount, because of the safety issues out here today, it’s important to put some investment back in this area.”
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