IOWA COLONY — To improve safety along a stretch of Highway 288 where there have been numerous crashes, the state highway department is spending $3.1 million to do away with the crossings and left turns from county roads.
Preliminary work has begun on the project, which will start at the northern end and take about eight months to complete, Texas Department of Transportation Spokesman Danny Perez said.
The project will remove the at-grade crossings at CRs 45, 48 South, 51, 57, 60 and 63, according to a fact sheet. It will add northbound and southbound median U-turns at CR 48 South, 51, 60 and 63, a northbound median U-turn lane at CR 57 and a southbound median U-turn lane at CR 45, the document states.
“It’s definitely a safer option,” Perez said.
The project is a temporary fix until elevated crossings can be built so the county roads do not intersect with Highway 288 at all, he said.
There have been crashes along this stretch of highway, Perez said, and this is an effort to reduce crashes and improve safety.
Texas Department of Transportation data shows there were 33 crashes in Iowa Colony, which contains three of the intersections, in 2017 and one was fatal. Iowa Colony had a population of 1,380 in 2017. Comparatively, Jones Creek had a population of 2,096 in 2017 and 16 crashes, the data shows.
Brazoria County had 29 traffic fatalities in 2017, according to the data. Of the 29, nine occurred on highways, 10 on farm-to-market roads, nine on county roads and one on a city street.
“Over the years, we have had several accidents at the crossings,” Iowa Colony Police Chief Aaron Bell said.
There have been a couple of fatalities he’s aware of, but he’s only been in Iowa Colony since February, he said.
With the amount of traffic coming through that highway, it can be dangerous, Bell said.
The traffic volume is increasing, Perez said. What might have worked at the cross-over locations 20 years ago is not necessarily working today, he said.
Making a 90-degree turn onto a highway like Highway 288 is not the best thing, Bell said.
The new lanes will allow drivers to enter on an acceleration lane then merge with traffic, Perez said. For those wanting to go left, they will have enough length of road to make their way over to the deceleration then U-turn lanes, he said.
That will be safer than crossing lanes of traffic or turning, Perez said.
“They’ll be able to slow down and U-turn safely,” he said.
During construction, the police chief urges drivers to be vigilant, slow down and be aware of their surroundings.
“That’s about all you can do,” Bell said.
There are all kinds of scenarios where there’s a potential for a crash at these locations, Perez said. This is not the final solution, but should improve safety, he said.