It’s all part of the four-year plan announced Tuesday by the Texas Department of Transportation.
State Highway 72 will be repaired from the Live Oak County line to the Karnes County line.
U.S. Highway 181, at the Karnes County line to south of Farm-to-Market Road 1465, will have additional passing lanes constructed. The same work is being done on that highway from south of FM 1465 to the intersection of Business 181.
Farm-to-Market Road 888, from FM 351 to 796, will be widened as will FM 534 from FM 796 to the Live Oak County line.
The Olmos Creek bridge, about a mile south of FM 797, is also scheduled for replacement.
While Tuesday’s meeting in Beeville was sparsely attended, it did draw at a few county officials, including Ray Gonzales, road and bridge administrator, Constable Clifford Bagwell and Commissioner Dennis DeWitt, both from Precinct 2.
DeWitt said that the passing lanes on Hwy. 181 between Beeville and Pettus and between Pettus and Karnes County are projected for next year. “In fact the new survey stakes around Pettus, Tuleta and the other communities are survey stakes preparing this project for an early bid. They are emphasizing this passing lane project due to the intense safety aspect,” DeWitt said.
The rehabilitation of Hwy. 72 will directly affect Pawnee and areas across the north end of Bee County, he said. It installs safety aspects in and along Hwy. 72. This project is scheduled to begin this winter.
“I cannot emphasize enough how responsive and cooperative TxDOT has been regarding Bee County. They have a huge task and are to be commended,” he said.
Bagwell said that, like DeWitt, he was happy to see the state making these improvements.
“I am glad they are moving as quickly as they are. They can’t move as quickly as we would want them to though,” Bagwell said.
He said, “The biggest concern is the amount of traffic moving up and down the road.”
The constable was asking that the state consider additional precautionary measures, such as lights, to help curtail future problems.
“We just want to try and get ahead of things before the traffic gets too bad,” he said. “People trying to get across the highway are becoming a big problem. Luckily, we haven’t had any bad accidents in the Pettus area recently.”
He added a caveat that two people were injured recently just north of Pettus in Karnes County.
That collision involved three 18-wheelers May 16 on U.S. Highway 181.
A blowout, according to a Department of Public Safety report, caused one of the trucks to cross the center line and hit another truck traveling the opposite direction.
The collision pushed the truck into the path of a third 18-wheeler.
The truck rolled, spilling flammable and explosive liquid.
“It was leaking all over the place,” Bagwell said.
The constable fears that despite the concerted effort of law enforcement – deputies, troopers and him – wrecks like this will continue and could escalate.
“They can’t slow everybody down,” he said.
Bagwell said that many of the elderly in the community have even given up driving the highway.
“A lot of them don’t even go to Beeville anymore,” he said. “These people have to get their groceries though. Now they have to find somebody to take them or do their shopping for them.”
The number of tickets issued in Precinct 2 has grown exponentially, he said, which is also putting a strain on the justice of the peace.
“It has quadrupled,” he said. “It is just going through the roof.
“The secretary is overworked.
“People are starting to call it a speed trap in that area.
“The ones calling it a speed trap are the ones not from our area.”
But speed isn’t the only issue.
“It is nothing for people to pass on the wrong side of the road. When the school bus pulls over, they just go around them,” he said.
It’s not ignorance of the laws that is causing the problems, he speculated.
“I think most of it is they are just in a hurry,” he said. “The more loads they can get in one day, the more money they make.”
New businesses opening up in the area are also a concern, because they equate to numerous vehicles flooding the streets in a tsunami of cars and trucks.
Ultimately, Bagwell hopes that Highway 181 becomes four lanes.
“That is not on the proposal,” he said. “That is not even being talked about.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.