TxDOT’s Bass: Safety is job #1
Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Executive Director James Bass emphasized the department’s focus on safety as its number one priority in his welcoming remarks at the recent Transportation Research Board’s Safety Design meeting in Austin.
Bass outlined the challenges faced by the agency at it manages over 80,000 centerline miles of roadway and is responsible for over 54,000 bridges. He stated that 537 million vehicle miles are logged on state-maintained roadways every day. And, the state has had a growing population and rising VMT for a decade.
TxDOT’s safety efforts have been funded in the past in part by a $600 million Highway Safety Bond Program awarded by the Texas Transportation Commission in 2009. Among other improvements, the installation of almost 300 miles of median barrier resulted from this program. From 2017 – 2020, the department will expend nearly $700 million of Highway Safety Improvement Program Funds to construct intersection improvements, add curve warning signs, LED chevrons on curves, rumble strips, safety lighting, improve super elevation and widen highways.
Roadway departure crashes are a particular focus of the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). From 2010 – 2016 they accounted for 45% of all fatal crashes and more than 30,000 serious injury crashes. Bass added that 58% of lane and roadway departure fatal and serious injury crashes occurred in rural areas and 42% in urban areas. As a result of this data, TxDOT is undertaking a special study to evaluate roadside treatments to mitigate roadway departure crashes. The study will commence in September with a target completion date of February 2020. A second project on the same schedule will assess options to retrofit guardrail systems to accommodate motorcycle safety.
Bass concluded his remarks by stating that roadside safety is an ever-evolving challenge and that we must better understand how crashes occur and what engineers, researchers and safety professionals can do to lessen the severity of those crashes. Ultimately, the goal is to save lives and reduce injuries on all Texas roadways.