By Wyatt Goolsby
MIDLAND - Three fatal accidents on Loop 250 just five months into 2009. Midland Police say that's more than the average for an entire year. As the Tall City continues to grow, officers say so will the traffic and the risk for wrecks. It prompts the question, how safe is Loop 250?
"Midland is seeing a lot higher traffic volumes than they ever, ever did before," Lieutenant Brian Bogart, with Midland Police, told NewsWest 9. "People are not use to this much traffic utilizing the roadway."
So, how bad is the congestion? Reports show city traffic is up 17 percent, with three fatalities on Loop 250 this year. Last year's crash that killed Patricia Hochman, and this year's pedestrian accident near the Hollywood Theaters are reminders of just how dangerous the road can be.
"It's frustrating a lot more people," Lt. Bogart explained. "I think that's where you get a lot of people, they get frustrated, they get behind on a stack of cars, when they do get an opening, they punch it."
But it's not just more cars. Lt. Bogart said police are working the Loop more frequently, using the Lidar gun for speeders, and watching for tailgaters.
"[On Tuesday] in this one hour operation, we've probably stopped about 20 cars," Sargeant Kyle Sullivan, said. Our NewsWest 9 camera's were rolling as Sullivan clocked drivers speeding home from work. "I would say our average speed was 76 to 77, with the high speed being 90."
Sgt. Sullivan said officers are writing about 300 to 500 tickets a week. Police say it's more than just stats because they say they're trying to get everyone to slow down.
"I think it's a deterrent for the other passers-by to see four or five cars lined up on the Loop stopped," Sgt. Sullivan said. "That lets other people know we are out here working."
"Saftey, congestion, and the livablity of Midland is what we are looking for," Robert Donnelly, the chair for Midland Vision 2020's Transportation Committee, explained.
Donnelly said development on the east part of the Loop, and growth on the west shows just how important the road will be years down the line. He said working with the Texas Department of Transportation will lead to safer driving conditions.
"What we are looking for is to improve Midland's transportation in the areas that we think that will enhance the City of Midland," Donnelly added.
As Midland grows, and officials plan for future projects, police tell NewsWest 9, the old small town driving atmosphere, is a thing of the past. Now, it's a bigger rat race, fueled by Loop 250, keeping the Tall City moving.