Monday, December 7, 2009
TxDOT explains why SH 34 in Terrell, site of three teenage pedestrian deaths, doesn’t have speed limit
The road was opened in February 2009, but a proper speed limit still has not been established.
TxDOT extends condolences to the families and community for their loss following the tragedy which occurred December 4 on State Highway 34 in the City of Terrell. [In the crash, three girls ages 16, 14, and 13 were killed when they were struck by a car. The girls were walking across the street.]
State Highway 34 is a new facility as it enters the City of Terrell. Construction was completed and open to traffic in February 2009. As part of the project development process, this new section of highway is currently being studied to establish the speed limit which will be posted.
TxDOT is responsible for conducting speed studies on new facilities. TxDOT can not arbitrarily assign a speed limit. The typical process of posting speed limit signs is dictated by state law and can take up to a year. The speed limit during this time defaults to the maximum allowed by state law which is 70 mph during the day and 65 mph at night. The process is as follows:
1. Once the road is open to traffic, TxDOT allows approximately two months for drivers to become familiar with the roadway.
2. Then the field study and data collection is initiated. This process involves collecting field data, running radar, and drawing up strip maps and can take up to two months. At the conclusion of the study, the 85th percentile for the speed limit is identified and a recommended speed limit is forwarded to Traffic Division in Austin for concurrence. Traffic Division will then forward to the city.
3. If the city concurs, they pass an ordinance establishing the speed limit.
4. The city forwards the resolution back to TxDOT and TxDOT installs the signs.
5. Prima Fascia speed is self established by the driver based upon roadway conditions and driver’s comfort level of speed.
The speed study for this section of highway is currently in Austin and will be forwarded to the City of Terrell upon completion.
Since this section of the highway is a new facility, there is no historical reference available for pedestrian or vehicular traffic which would indicate this as a high accident location.
TxDOT has referred this issue to the Occupational Safety Division in Austin for complete review. They will continue to emphasize safety as a priority and have contacted the school district to offer assistance in providing proactive safety outreach as they counsel their students.