From the Clocktower – Controls in Construction

By Kathi Bliss

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

I hate to be someone that complains about roads being fixed. Heaven knows, there are more than plenty of local, state and Federal road projects in Caldwell County that I (and my car’s suspension) would love to see completed. And as irritated as I get about the traffic, the truth of the matter is, I’m delighted to see all the construction work going on around Lockhart these days – those projects are an inconvenience now, but they are going to make things great, later.

I’m troubled, though, by what I’m seeing as an emerging safety issue, and I wonder if we, as a community, shouldn’t call on our friends at TxDOT to do a thorough review of their approved contractors’ safety records.

After all, it was only a few years ago that a tragic accident killed a paving company employee on San Antonio Street, when he got caught under a piece of equipment. And I’m told, though I wasn’t there, that lax supervision of the construction site on Highway 142 might have been at least in part responsible for the five-car accident outside of Lockhart last week.

I wasn’t there, so I’m not casting blame – not exactly. The witnesses and reports at the scene said there was one driver who was absolutely responsible for that mess, and whether she was driving distracted or her brakes failed, I simply don’t know.

What I DO know is that when I, myself, approached that scene, a member of the crew meant to direct traffic as it dwindled to one lane was looking at a cell phone, holding a sign that said “stop,” and waving me through – all at the same time. That strikes me as a recipe for disaster.

What’s more, I’ve heard anecdotal tales from driver after driver who follow that route every day, who tell me they have seen that, and worse. One said early last week that she was driving the route, and the directors on both ends of the project were funneling traffic from their end, into the one lane available for driving… at the same time. That seems somewhat on the dangerous side.

Based on what I’ve observed personally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that every single person who drives that route daily has a story to match these. I am, however, saddened that I believe that to be true.

I understand that TxDOT has to follow a particular set of laws in choosing their vendors and assigning their contracts. And hard as I’ve tried, I can’t find a statute that factors “driver safety on construction sites” into that equation. And it should.

After all, if TxDOT is going to pick and choose vendors from all across the State and send them into our communities, I think the communities should know about their safety records. It is our lives, after all, that they’re charged with protecting while they’re directing our traffic away from their projects.

We have representatives on the Capitol Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CARTPO), which makes recommendations to TxDOT about Central Texas projects. The organization has TxDOT’s ear. I’d like to call on them to clarify the safety standards the Department uses to certify their vendors… and maybe, to do a little bit better in the future.

kathibliss@post-register.com

1 Comment

  1. Antonio Gonzales says:

    Coming back from San Marcos May 15th I noticed several workers standing while machines were running and looking at their cell phones. To begin with the distances in the one lane that is open shouldn’t be too far from apart. I believe that the company doing the construction is from Baytown. Seems like wasted money to me for work on a road that was done a couple years ago.

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