Saturday, December 20, 2008

"TxDOT built the HOV lanes despite warnings from its own engineers that the design could be dangerous."

Top lawmaker demands HOV safety fix


WFAA-TV (Dallas, TX)
Copyright 2008

A top Texas lawmaker says there are obvious safety problems with the HOV lanes on North Central Expressway.

Sen. John Carona, who heads of the Senate Transportation Committee, says the Texas Department of Transportation must fix the problems now.

Carona's demand comes in response to a series of reports by News 8 that show a dramatic increase in crashes and fatalities on Central — a freeway traveled by 250,000 motorists every day.

"It is an urgent public safety matter and it absolutely a priority," Carona said.

Carona wants TxDOT to explain why it built the HOV lanes despite warnings from its own engineers that the design could be dangerous.

"I will be meeting directly with TxDOT; I'll be meeting myself as well as bringing up to speed our committee," Carona said. "Hopefully this is an issue we can begin resolution on before the legislative session begins." .

News 8 found the City of Richardson pressured TxDOT to approve an HOV design that the city preferred. That's a concern for Sen. Carona.

"Officials within TxDOT, despite an awareness of potential public safety issues, really just caved in to local political interests, and that's bad," Carona said. "We can't run a transportation agency that way."

TxDOT blames HOV safety problems on Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which operates the lanes. TxDOT says DART is not replacing broken lane-marking pylons fast enough and says the agency's police force is not writing enough tickets to violators.

DART Police Chief James Spiller disagrees.

"The root cause of the problem, we would look at and say, it's the design," Spiller said.

Carona sees it that way, too. "It's obviously a design issue," he said.

Sen. Carona, who represents parts of Dallas and the Park Cities, says he's not just worried about the design of the HOV lanes on Central. He wants to double-check all of TxDOT's HOV work in North Texas.

"I'm not averse to the idea of having to go and re-do all of it, if ultimately that's what it taes to make sure the roads are safer," he said.


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