News

Left turn, anyone?

School officials plead with TxDOT for signal at new intermediate school
By MIKE BROWN Reporter Editor

This is what drivers coming out of the new intermediate school face as they attempt to turn left onto US 79 and head back into Rockdale. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) denied a request for a stop light at this intersection but school officials are hopeful they can prevail with a new request. Afternoon traffic backups have become common. This is what drivers coming out of the new intermediate school face as they attempt to turn left onto US 79 and head back into Rockdale. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) denied a request for a stop light at this intersection but school officials are hopeful they can prevail with a new request. Afternoon traffic backups have become common. "We need a stop light and we need it before something happens, not after."

That's the quest Rockdale ISD Supt. Dr. Howell Wright is on as he attempts to persuade the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to install a full-fledged stop light on US 79 at the new intermediate campus.

A stop light was always envisioned for the intersection of US 79 and what is now Walter R. Pond Drive, which serves the new school.

But that request was denied by TxDOT and since classes began Aug. 24 there have been substantial bottlenecks twice each school day at the site.

Left turns

"The problem is in slowing down the traffic coming into town from the west and, to a certain extent, also slowing down the traffic as it begins to accelerate heading out of town from the west," Dr. Wright said.

"It creates problems for vehicles trying to turn left either into the school or leaving the school turning left onto the highway," he said.

Planners envisioned a stop light almost from the moment property for the new campus was purchased.

"What happened was that TxDOT turned down the school's request," Dr. Wright said.

In fact the blinking amber caution lights, and signs designating school zone, came only after the involvement of State Rep. Dan Gattis.

"I think he basically was able to persuade TxDOT to put up those signs or we wouldn't have had anything at all for the start of school," Dr. Wright said.

Bottlenecks One of those lights malfunctioned the first day, helping to create an afternoon bottleneck which backed up traffic on the highway and on Walter Pond Drive.

"It's gotten somewhat better since that first day but it's still not what we'd like it to be, especially in the afternoons," Dr. Wright said.

He's trying a different tack after having no success in the "upper levels" of the transportation department.

"I'm now dealing with TxDOT's Cameron office and we're hopeful they can assist us in getting a stop light to take care of this situation."

Dr. Wright said TxDOT's offi- cial position has been "wait until school starts and we'll see what's needed."

Safety issue

"It's obvious to us what's needed," Dr. Wright. "It's totally a matter of safety."

"We have to get buses in and out of that campus, there's obviously a great number of parents picking up and dropping off students and we have school personnel shuttling back and forth between the intermediate and the elementary during the day," he said.

"I can certainly understand the way government agencies are competing for funding right now," Dr. Wright said. "But this, to me, is strictly a matter of safety.

"We're hoping TxDOT can come through and do it quickly," Dr. Wright said. "It's needed right now and you can see that it's needed every weekday afternoon."


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