Texas Tries to Remove Crash Points on SH 71 by Removing Traffic Lights

State Highway (SH) 71 is one of the most dangerous roadways in the region. Traffic accident statistics for 2018 through Vision Zero show several deaths on SH 71 in the last year alone. Improving safety for drivers on SH 71 may take reworking the road’s infrastructure. City planners are attempting to reduce the risk of accidents on this highway by removing traffic lights – thus eliminating historic crash points.

If you were recently involved in a large car collision on SH 71, speak to a Houston car accident attorney today.

Why Do Accidents Happen on SH 71?

State Highway 71 has been the setting for numerous car accidents, personal injuries, and deaths over the years. This busy highway runs 253 miles, from south of Brady to Blessing, Texas. It is the 10th Mountain Division Highway. Drivers get into serious accidents on SH 71 for many reasons, but human error is the most common underlying factor. The following are some of the reasons behind fatal accidents on SH 71 in 2018:

  • Running a red light
  • Pedestrian attempting to cross a high-speed roadway
  • Driver losing control and striking objects/medians
  • Failing to yield right-of-way while attempting to turn left
  • Making illegal U-turns across the highway
  • Worn tires losing traction on wet roads

Accident data show many fatal accidents along SH 71 occur at intersections and traffic lights. These crash points are common due to distracted and negligent drivers, such as those who run red lights or speed through intersections. It is the city’s belief that removing traffic lights from along the State Highway could prevent future collisions and save lives.

What Does the SH 71 Project Entail?

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) plans to construct a new overpass to upgrade the intersection of SH 71 and Farm to Market Road 1209. The goal of the construction project is to eliminate the traffic light and hazards related to the light. Bradley Wheelis with TxDOT stated that removing the traffic lights removes the risk of someone running the light – and thus reduces the odds of a serious intersection collision. Wheelis also said replacing the traffic lights with overpasses can improve mobility on SH 71 and reduce traffic congestion.

The traffic on SH 71 has increased each year. Drivers in the area are experiencing added traffic in areas, which can contribute to fender-bender accidents such as rear-end collisions. TxDOT officials believe eliminating traffic lights alone on SH 71 will keep things moving along better on the highway, helping drivers who have become frustrated at catching multiple red lights on commutes. The goal of the change is to speed traffic up in this area, prevent red-light running, and reduce accident rates.

The overpass proposal is part of a larger roadway infrastructure improvement plan in Texas. The SH 71 East Corridor project will upgrade five intersections along the highway, replacing lights with overpasses at Tucker Hill Lane, Pope Bend Road, Kellam Road, Ross Road, and FM 1209. The overpasses will allow cross traffic to travel beneath the bridge. Upon completion of the project, SH 71 from Austin to I-10 will not have any traffic lights. This will make it easier for vehicles to proceed east without delays. The project will cost an estimated $34.5 million, but Wheelis says it is one of the least expensive ways to improve mobility in the corridor.

Community Opinions on the Project

With daily traffic averaging almost 37,000 vehicles at the intersection of SH 71 and FM 1209, most citizens in the area support the upgrades and believe it will help reduce traffic congestion. Some, however, believe the removal of traffic lights could hurt their businesses. An employee at Bastrop Metal Recycling, Isaac Godinez, fears it will reduce traffic to the business because drivers will not want to make the long turn it would take to get there. Only time will tell whether the upgrades improve SH 71 safety.

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