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TxDOT: Pay attention in work zones - Odessa American: Traffic & Transportation

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TxDOT: Pay attention in work zones

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Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2019 5:00 am

As of Friday evening, the Crash Records Information System from the Texas Department of Transportation listed 14 work zone related crashes in Odessa for the 2019 calendar year.

The number of crashes in that same period one year ago was 17.

However, during the next nine and half months, work zone related crash numbers totaled 107 — which is an average of more than 10 per month.

“We see bad driving everywhere,” said Gene Powell, TxDOT Odessa District public information officer. “It’s made worse in construction zones because there’s the frustration of having to go through the construction zone.”

Work zone related crash numbers hovered from 44 to 64 between 2013 and 2017.

Ector County citizens need to increase their awareness in work zones for the foreseeable future in the 12-county Odessa District, which includes Ector and Midland counties.

The Odessa District has a total of 223 projects that are set to begin within the next four years for a total of $982 million, TxDOT project tracker details. Overall, the Odessa District for next 10 plus years has 437 projects that will total more than $2.5 billion.

“What we see the most of in work zones are rear-end collisions and that’s just not paying attention of what’s around you,” Powell said. “It’s going too fast and not controlling your speed.

“For years now, when we look at fatalities in work zones, over 80 percent of the fatalities in work zones are motorists. It’s not necessarily the people working in the work zones that are injured and killed.”

Powell detailed in an email there’s an amount built into construction contracts and differs by project that would pay for law enforcement to patrol work zone areas.

Further in the email, Powell stated the money can be used to hire off-duty officers for security and the other way is to ask law enforcement agencies to step up patrols in specific areas and they do it if and when they can. That wouldn’t cost anything.

Powell expressed his displeasure about using taxpayer dollars to hire off-duty officers to work security in work zones.

“Just the presence of a law enforcement vehicle will slow people, but the flip side of that is that it’s ridiculous to spend taxpayer money making people do what they are supposed to be doing anyway,” Powell said.

There are three projects taking place in Odessa. The two biggest are on Interstate 20, while the third is on Farm-to-Market Road 1936. The five-mile stretch from east of County Road West to near Grandview Avenue has entrance ramps closed due to construction and multiple left lane closures.

Since a majority of the construction is taking place on Interstate 20, the Department of Public Safety is the law enforcement agency in charge of patrolling those work zones.

DPS spokesperson Sgt. Oscar Villarreal said it’s important to pay attention and troopers are constantly patrolling work zones.

“We are making notifications and signs are clearly posted before you get to a construction area,” Villarreal said. “The only thing I can add to that is to pay attention and don’t be distracted while you are driving and when you get to those areas use a little extra caution.”

Powell echoed Villarreal’s message to watch the road.

The Odessa District’s public information officer said commercial trucks, pickups and or sports cars need more time to slow down or have the ability to control speed.

“It’s incumbent on truck drivers to know what it’s ahead of them,” Powell said. “We put out press releases all the time. We put out traffic reports all the time. They know it takes their vehicle a long time to stop. They know that’s more difficult to maneuver in heavy traffic.

“Yet, there’s a percentage of them that don’t want to follow the rules... A vast majority of them respect the rules, but it’s the five or 10 percent that don’t who cause the problems. The same goes for people in pickups and the same goes for the people in sports cars.”

Odessa, TX

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