A signal light will be installed at FM 8 and U.S. Highway 281, a state transportation official said Monday.
When exactly is another matter entirely.
Contrary to what some may believe, accidents (fatality or injury) do not determine whether or not TxDOT installs a signal light and installing a light takes a considerable amount of engineering.
Marc McEndree, TxDOT area engineer, says accidents are not factored into the decision to place a light, but there are several “warrants” or conditions that are met during traffic studies to determine if a light will be installed.
“I am concerned about fatality or injury accidents,” McEndree said. “I want to know why it happened because we want the highways to be as safe as possible. As an engineer they get my attention.”
The new stop and go signal light that will be installed at this particular intersection has already been in the works for a long time, McEndree said.
“The whole process takes three to four years,” McEndree said. “This intersection was started several years ago because the city had a concern and we had a concern.”
McEndree said the bid for the light was awarded to Durable Specialties in the Metroplex a while ago but the equipment is not something that can just be bought off the shelf. He said it has to be designed specifically for the intersection and then built.
“It can take several months depending on the complexity of the equipment that has to go in,” McEndree said. “Once it is built it has to be tested in Austin for 30 days. You certainly don’t want a malfunctioning signal.”
Not only do the lights themselves have to be designed and tested, but McEndree said the “strain poles” that actually hold the signal box must also be engineered.
“Because 281 has several lanes it’s going to have to be a very long pole that is especially matched,” McEndree said. “It’s not a component you can just pick up.”
After last Thursday’s accident that killed 19-year-old Zane Coates, McEndree said he has received at least three phone calls regarding the safety of the intersection. Coates’ accident came on the heels of a previous wreck that killed an 18-year-old man from Hico.
“Emotions are very high and I understand that,” McEndree said. “While I would like to get it in as soon as possible there isn’t anything that can be done to speed up the process.”