Help coming for troubled intersection

JESSIE HORTON jessie.horton@empiretribune.com
Stephenville Police Chief Patrick Bridges

An accident at the intersection of Alexander, Ollie and Washington streets on Wednesday morning had E-T readers up in arms about the situation and hitting Facebook to voice their concerns.

"They should have thought about it when they made it (the intersection) that way," said Ginger Jones. "It takes forever to get across there. They really need to do something about it before a really bad wreck happens. Since school is started back and Tarleton is too, they really need a light."

Another reader, Laura Carrasco Reyna, had another suggestion, "They need to do something about that area, it's just too tight of a squeeze and with no four-way stop sign, it's just too dangerous."

Todd Brown said he has spoken with some city council members previously and was informed it was the Texas Department of Transportation's responsibility to maintain Washington Street and therefore TxDOT's job to add lights or place stop signs along the street. Residents questioned why TxDOT would be in charge of a city street.

According to city officials, that is exactly right. Washington Street is considered Business 377 and a state highway, which are maintained by TxDOT. Michael Peters, Public Information Officer for TxDOT, said Washington Street is a TxDOT maintained road and that there is a traffic signal planned for the intersection in the coming months.

"Yes, we do maintain that roadway," Peters said. "And there are plans currently in the works to put a traffic signal in at the intersection of Ollie and Washington streets."

He said the estimated construction date was sometime in the spring of 2014 and that until the signal is installed, TxDOT continues to urge drivers to exercise caution at that, and all other intersections.

What makes this intersection so dangerous isn't something new to Stephenville, or other college towns in general, according to Police Chief Pat Bridges.

"Like with any community where there is an increase in population, not just due to college students, more people in vehicles leads to more congestion on streets and at intersections," he said. "And it isn't just there. But the biggest problem isn't the lack of a light or sign, it's driver impatience and not paying attention."

Luckily, there have been no major accidents at the intersection since the expansion, Bridges said. He could not recall an accident there that resulted in a death or major medical issue, just traffic problems.

Bridges said while the city's police have recorded seven accidents at the intersection, it is not the most dangerous intersection on Washington Street. According to police reports for 2012, since Jan. 1, the Washington Street intersection with Dale Street (which has a four-way stop light) has had 11 accidents to the seven reported accidents at Alexander, Ollie and Washington.

"You could put a light or a stop sign at every intersection in town and there would still be accidents," Bridges said. "Until everyone only focuses on driving and slows down there will be accidents at intersections. It could be anything from texting or talking on cell phones to messing with the radio to chatting with passengers in the vehicles with them, people who are distracted and impatient will have wrecks."

There have only been two traffic accidents that resulted in deaths in Stephenville so far this year, Bridges said. The first was a motorcycle accident on Lingleville Highway and the second was the vehicle-train accident last week.