Roadside vendors adding to traffic problems

Truck beds loaded with fresh produce, blankets and other merchandise pose a safety risk to the public when vendors operate in county right-of-ways.

Ector County officials began combing through local laws and regulations that could reduce hazards brought on by temporary roadside stands, but at this time a solution has not been pinned down.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Eddy Shelton said roadside vendors are operating in plain sight throughout all of Ector County, but regulations for safety and enforcement have been missing pieces.

The Commissioners’ Court authorized Public Works Project Manager David Peck on Tuesday to continue research on the topic and identify viable options for the county to oversee and regulate roadside vendors going forward.

Shelton received an email in March from a constituent that stated roadside stands on 42nd Street and Kermit Highway were creating major problems with traffic and increased risks for crashes on the roadways.

Peck said another area that has come to light as a concern is the right-of-way areas where West 42nd Street meets Highway 302.

“There’s a bunch of traffic right across Highway 302 to the north where they’re building a new truck stop, so it’s not going to get any better,” Peck said.

He said as traffic comes down 42nd Street to enter the highway, vehicles are shuffling across both sides of the street to enter or exit the stand locations and even stopping at each corner to compare prices.

Highways and Streets Director Evans Kessey said the intersection has become a dangerous area.

“If you’re a vendor, you’re going to want to set up where there is the most traffic, but that ends up being hazardous to the drivers and hazardous to people on the side of the road,” Peck said.

Ideas that have been tossed around to address vendors and public safety vary from county permit requirements, increased enforcement by the Ector County Sheriff’s Office, adding specific location information on every health department permit request, barricades set up by the Ector County Highways and Streets Department and consideration for a designated farmers market in the county.

Peck said county government’s ability to regulate is more limited than the City of Odessa and the leading answer to resolve the issue appears to be requiring a vendor to get a permit, but he was not sure which department would issue the permit, or who would enforce the rules.

“There is no easy solution because people want the product, people want to sell the product and we’ve just got to figure out a safe way for everybody to do that,” he said.