Barrera lives on U.S. 181, a main road with a speed limit of 60 mph—but the speed limit signs seem to be invisible to passersby. “People go 85-90 mph on that road,” Barrera said. “I’ve almost gotten hit trying to pull out of my own driveway.”
Barrera said that cars, trucks, oil field vans and 18-wheelers speed through town with no regard to the speed limit, and dangerously pass one another, despite the double yellow lines painted on the road.
“I’m thinking about making a sign that says ‘slow down,’ and just standing outside holding it,” Barrera said. “That’s how aggravated I am.”
Frustrated, Barrera set out on a mission last week to get answers. “I went to the (Bee County) Sheriff’s office and spoke with two deputies, then I called the Department of Transportation; I spoke with Commissioner DeWitt and a few other people. Commissioner DeWitt even told me about his own bad experiences with traffic while traveling though Normanna, and he agreed that something needs to be done,” she said.
Commissioner Dennis DeWitt said he understands Barrera’s concerns, and he is hoping that the traffic will slow within the next two months with the completion of safety upgrades and the reopening of West King Lane.
“Within the next 60-90 days, the safety upgrades should be complete,” DeWitt said. He explained that the upgrades include widening the highway (181) and bridge structures, creating passing lanes and laying down an asphalt overlay.
DeWitt said he anticipates that the reopening of West King Lane will also help to decongest the traffic in that area.
“West King Lane is under construction,” he said. “It should be re-opened within the next 45 days when the project is complete, and I think that will help spread out the traffic coming through Normanna.”
Barrera said she isn’t sure if a change of speed limit will help, since people aren’t paying attention to it anyway.
“I don’t know if it will do any good, but I do think the speed limit needs to be lowered, and I think a caution light should be put in, warning people to slow down,” she said.
DeWitt explained that 181 is under the state highway department’s jurisdiction, so a change of speed limit or a caution light would be up to them to handle. “The county cannot do those things,” he said, “that would be a state matter.”
Barrera said when the traffic gets really bad she’ll often call the sheriff’s department to send someone out. “They’ll sit for a few hours and try to catch people speeding,” she said. “It helps, but as soon as they leave it’s back to the same thing.”
“Something needs to be done,” she urged. “If we don’t get help, there will be an accident right by my driveway, and it will come in through my window.”
“I’m 72 years old, and I want to live to be 100,” Barrera said, “but I’m scared to death that I’ll die in a car accident right outside of my own home.”
“As far as people speeding, I know for a fact that the Sheriff’s Office and DPS are working that area hard to make sure people slow down,” DeWitt assured. “There is no excuse for people not wanting to follow the law, but I’m hoping that the safety upgrades and the reopening of West King Lane will help.”
Lindsey Shaffer is the regional editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 119, or at regional@mySouTex.com.