The Texas Department of Transportation is creating a task force to study Interstate 10 West from Loop 1604 to Texas 46 following numerous complaints about deadly accidents, gridlock and construction.
“The top priority is to do all we can on our end to prevent crashes and save lives,” said Hernan Rozemberg, a local TxDOT spokesman. “Due to the fact that we’re working with various contractors on each project, we wanted to make sure there was good continuity with the least disruption possible for drivers, while keeping in mind their safety is paramount.”
Construction officials and highway engineers under TxDOT’s umbrella will make up the panel, which plans to review traffic flow set-up, identify potential improvement areas, and quickly act on recommendations.
The stretch under consideration from north San Antonio to Boerne boasts five ongoing roadway projects.
State highway officials, however, emphasized the task force won’t focus on how crashes and accidents affect the construction process, but rather ways to keep drivers safe in traveling through such zones.
In 2017 alone, TxDOT reported a total of 479 accidents in Boerne and 43,951 crashes in San Antonio, both fatal and nonfatal.
Of those, 27,184 occurred in work zones, though TxDOT officials weren’t able to share data about how many are directly related to the span of I-10 the task force will vet.
However, concern from commuters and anecdotal reports about a rising number of major accidents resulting in deaths spurred the formation of the group, state officials said.
“We understand there has been high public interest in this corridor, given the recent amount of crashes including, sadly, fatalities,” Rozemberg said. “We want the public to know we’re doing all we can to identify any steps that will boost safety, such as ensuring proper lane striping when going from one project to another. But, this needs to be a team effort.”
Motorists also bear some responsibility for avoiding mishaps, Rozemberg added.
“Drivers can and should do their part to increase safety – starting with abiding by the speed limit, being alert and paying attention to the road and signage, putting cellphones down while behind the wheel, and leaving proper space between vehicles (at least four seconds between you and the car in front of you),” he said. “We’re confident that by all of us working together, we’ll make a big difference in improving safety.”
According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, based on reportable crashes in 2017, one person is killed in a traffic accident every two hours and 21 minutes, and crashes meriting reporting occur every 59 seconds statewide.
Some locals expressed doubts about the task force’s value.
“The only way to increase safety is to add more law-enforcement patrols,” said Robert Weller of Lost Creek. “You can build the best highways in the world, but if folks drive like idiots, like they do now, the highways won’t be safe.”
Several residents reiterated the sentiment.
Fair Oaks Ranch’s Geri Pieper even asked her employer if she could work remotely until what she coined the “I-10 PTSD,” or post-traumatic stress disorder, lessened.
“Drivers are responsible for changing two bad habits — speeding and following distance,” Pieper said. “Until these two habits change, the task force could lower the speed limit to 35 (mph) on the access road and 50 on the expressway construction zone, and enforce the limits.”
She added, “Reducing the speed limit might force drivers to back off a bit, as it’s common practice to go about 10 mph over posted limits. “I don’t know if following distance is covered in driver’s education (classes), but it is not a practice on our roads as people follow too close for stopping.”
Kim Urbanowski of Windwood Estates feels the panel should first examine changes to highway entrances.
“The newly revised on-ramp that leads from the access road onto I-10 eastbound in Boerne (at exit 543) is ridiculously short,” Urbanowski said. “It is a high speed on-ramp with a very short distance to merge and literally puts cars directly into the right lane of oncoming traffic. Because of the concrete barriers that form the ramp, traffic already on I-10 can barely see the merging cars. I have personally witnessed three near-accidents in the last week. Merging traffic is supposed to yield to the I-10 traffic, but most people are not.”
Another suggestion from commuters is for construction not to block road shoulders; also, several agreed with Urbanowski about making entrance and off-ramps safer.
In addition, many favored lowering speed limits and posting signage with improved visibility and markings. A few said TxDOT sometimes moves slowly on criticism, but could conduct more town halls for accountability and direct communication.
“I appreciate that an effort is apparently underway to address the concerns related to construction on I-10,” said Scott Janse of Fair Oaks Ranch. “I am concerned for the safety of all, and especially for my wife and kids who use I-10 daily. The formation of a task force is appreciated, and likely will take time to prove effective, but changes are needed somewhat immediately.”
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