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OP-ED: Traveling the roads around town

Dawn Burleigh,
General Manager/Editor

Ice is just as detrimental to our roads as the flood waters of Harvey and Imelda.

As the frozen waters melted, new potholes were left behind in the wake. While we like to have a person to blame, it is not fault of Road and Bridge crews throughout the area but the destructive damage of H2O.

TxDOT sent out an alert for alternating lane closures along Interstate 10 east and westbound near Walden in Beaumont on Tuesday specifically for crews to repair potholes.

While watching out for pavement divots, what about watching the speed limits as well?

Roads in front of schools have flashing amber lights and signs stating 20 MPH when lights flashing. Yet, at several locations throughout the county, drivers see those signs as ‘suggestions’ just as they see 45 MPH on MacArthur Drive as a suggestion.

Tuesday morning, as I drove behind a truck going approximately just over 40 MPH, I noticed other vehicles passing around us and swerving in and out of traffic. Yes, the truck was going under the speed limit, but not enough to justify the rush all the other drivers were showing.

We already know that stretch of road is deadly and we have to pay extra attention as we travel it. So why rush and risk becoming the next statistic of the road?

One day, Orange Police Department is going to park a couple of their patrol vehicles by West Orange Stark Junior High and hand out tickets to all those who exceed the 30 MPH when the lights are not flashing. Although, they could hand out even more when the lights are flashing and drivers pass those going 20 MPH.

“20 Texas counties actually had zero deaths on their roadways – that tells me we can end the streak of daily deaths in Texas,” Texas Transportation Commissioner Laura Ryan said. “This is why in 2019 the Texas Transportation Commission adopted a new goal of having zero deaths on our roadways by 2050, and to cut the number of fatalities in half by 2035. We will do our part; and we need drivers to do theirs.”

An average of 10 people die every day in crashes in the state.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic levels on Texas highways dropped nearly 44 percent in some parts of the state. This decrease in traffic encouraged TxDOT to think the horrific streak might finally come to an end. Instead, the death rate was unchanged, even with fewer drivers on Texas roads.

“We can and we must do better,” said Ryan.

MacArthur Drive has already claimed too many lives.

Loleecia Hughey, 2, was killed when a vehicle hit her Nov. 23, 2011, in the 2500 block of MacArthur, the day after Thanksgiving. Loleecia’s death prompted requests for lights along the street.

Ava Lewis, 25 and her daughter, LaMya Newhouse, 6, were killed in a 2015 double fatal auto-pedestrian on MacArthur Drive.

Be more cautious as you travel the roads. Watch out for pedestrians, potholes and be mindful of the speed limits. Those flashing amber lights are not suggestions.

Dawn Burleigh is general manager and editor of The Orange Leader. She can be reached at dawn.burleigh@orangeleader.com