"TxDOT never should have built those lanes as narrow as they did and sacrifice public safety for political whim. That was inexcusable."
By DAVID SCHECHTER
A powerful state lawmaker says the Texas Department of Transportation caved in to political pressure when it scrapped designs for much safer HOV lanes on North Central Expressway.
News 8 has learned that plastic pylons were a compromise for TxDOT, which had long insisted on concrete barriers to separate the HOV lanes from other traffic.
"I think TxDOT cut corners," said Republican state representative Linda Harper-Brown, chair of the House Transportation Committee.
She's reacting to the News 8 report showing the plastic pylons lining the HOV lane on North Central Expressway do not prevent cross-overs; accidents are up 40 percent; and three motorists have already been killed.
News 8 found TxDOT scrapped plans for a single, reversible HOV lane, protected by concrete barriers. Instead, it squeezed two lanes in roughly the same space and lined them with plastic pylons.
Brian Barth is TxDOT's director of planning. "If we had the space to put concrete barriers in this concurrent design, I think we would've done that," he said.
Harper-Brown is also chair of the Sunset Commission. It will review TxDOT's performance this session, and could restructure the agency.
She says TxDOT's design of North Central Expressway's HOV lanes will be a major issue.
"I think we'll have considerable conversation about it," she said.
Harper-Brown is particularly concerned that TxDOT was originally dead-set against the two-lane design, but reversed itself when local communities pushed hard for the two-lane design. They argued two lanes would better serve a growing population.
"TxDOT never should have built those lanes as narrow as they did and sacrifice public safety for political whim.That was inexcusable," Harper-Brown added.
© 2008 WFAA-TV: www.txcn.com
To search TTC News Archives click
To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click