TxDOT Backs $600M in Statewide Safety Projects; Economic Cost of Crashes Exceeds $19.7B

December 16, 2004

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is giving Texans something to celebrate this holiday season – the largest single roadway safety program it has ever undertaken.

At just over $600 million, it will include 644 safety projects all across the state. Transportation planners say the highway improvements could save as many as 90 lives and prevent nearly 1,100 injuries every year.

Bonds authorized by voters last year will be used to pay for widening
narrow two-lane roadways, installing barriers in the medians of divided
highways, adding left turn lanes at highway intersections and building new overpasses around the state. Work on many of the projects is expected to be underway as early as next year.

“Thanks to the voters, we are about to make safety improvements to more than 2,300 miles of state highways,” said Gov. Rick Perry. “That’s more than the length of a road stretching all the way from Austin to New York City.”

The bond program will pay for projects that safety experts say have the most potential for reducing the number of traffic crashes on state-maintained highways. TxDOT will spend $295 million to widen narrow, two-lane roads in 90 Texas counties to lessen head-on collisions and crashes involving vehicles that run off the road. New concrete or cable barriers in the medians of heavily traveled divided highways are expected to decrease head-on collisions.

Ten new highway overpasses will reportedly improve traffic flow and reduce the number and severity of crashes. TxDOT will also install left turn lanes at 171 locations to reduce the number of rear-end crashes.

“Safety is our top priority,” said Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission. “The improvements we can now afford to make to highways all over Texas could save an estimated 1,800 lives and prevent 21,000 injuries over the next 20 years.”

In 2003, voters gave the Texas Transportation Commission authority to
issue up to $3 billion in bonds to pay for state highway improvement projects. The unprecedented number of safety projects announced in Austin this week are the first to be funded under this new financing option.

Each year, more than 3,500 people are killed and more than 340,000 are injured in motor vehicle crashes in Texas. The Texas Transportation Institute’s Center for Transportation Safety estimates the annual economic cost of crashes in the state exceeds $19.7 billion.

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