Residents in Upton County Worried About Increased Traffic, Accidents

by Anayeli Ruiz
NewsWest 9

UPTON COUNTY - We've all seen an increase in traffic because of the boom. In Upton County, they say one road is a potential death trap.

With all of the wrecks on Highway 349 many people contacted NewsWest 9 saying they worry every time they have to get on it. NewsWest 9 looked into the problem and found out the Sheriff's Office already has a plan to deal with it.

"A tremendous amount more of traffic," Upton County Sheriff, Dan Brown, said.

Brown says in the 30 years he has lived here he has never seen so much traffic.

"You could get on that highway, you would see three four cars between here and Midland. Now you get on that highway, you probably see 200 or more here just between the county lines," Brown said.

The oil boom has caused an increase of traffic to their area and as of last week Upton County had a total rig count of 31 drilling rigs.

"When you have that kind of increase in the traffic, there is going to be some accidents. There is going to be alot more speeding, alot more carelessness and alot more trucks," Brown said.

In the past few weeks, there have been two separate deaths on Highway 349. The latest one was on Monday when an Odessa man died after his GMC pickup truck collided head on with an 18 wheeler. Accidents like these are scaring people who constantly use Highway 349.

"The biggest danger right now is 349 because it's used more and it's a two lane highway where all the accidents are happening," Rankin resident, Manuel Gamboa, said.

"It is very scary, it's scary for myself, scary for my kids," Resident, Irene Gamboa, said.

"Some of them just don't care, they feel like we are bigger than you," Resident, Brenda Aguilar, said.

The Sheriff says in order to help the situation, he will be writing letters to the oil companies to get their workers to drive safely. He has already asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to send them more manpower to give them a hand and they will increase their patrols on Highway 349.

"It's not just about writing tickets, it's about getting people to slow down and be careful," Brown said.

TXDOT is reviewing the accidents that happen in the area and are taking them into consideration for any measures that need to be taken in the future.