Local Officials Hope 55 Saves Lives

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Drivers be warned -- a dangerous road has some new rules.

Thursday afternoon, local officials unveiled the changes, most notably, a 55 mile-per-hour speed limit from FM 159 to the Navasota River. There are plenty of new signs that will hopefully point to new safety in South Brazos County.

It was a short set of statements along a long stretch of highway.

"We cannot prevent fatal accidents down here," said State Senator Steve Ogden, "but I think we can at least do everything in our power to reduce its likelihood."

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, local leaders spoke of the dangers of Highway 6 in South Brazos County -- 30 fatal accidents in the last 10 years according to Ogden, an average of 90 accidents each year on that stretch.

But the new number of note is 55.

"It sends a message to the public that in order to save your life and the lives of your loved ones, you're going to have to slow down down here," said Ogden (R-District 5).

"All we ask is that people drive safely, drive defensively, be alert, see what's going on ahead of you and around you," said Sgt. Mike Spillers with the Department of Public Safety.

And ahead of drivers as they enter and exit the area will be radar trailers -- drivers' speeds alongside what they should be driving. It only takes five minutes of observation to see many are coasting within the limit, while others aren't following the can't miss new rules, rules that don't have an adjustment time.

"I think this news conference is the grace period," said Spillers Thursday.

Added law enforcement will be in the area. DPS and Brazos County will be out on patrol, with fines upwards of $500 for violators of the speed limit in the construction zone. College Station Police will also be out in their area of jurisdiction in the construction zone.

The Texas Department of Transportation will also be keeping a close watch on the area, coming out a few times a month to track trends of drivers.

"We will try to determine what kind of impact our speed zone is having," said Bryan Wood, TxDOT's district engineer, "and if it's not having an impact, we will work with law enforcement and see what else we can do."

But for now, officials hope what they've done will drop drivers' speeds, along with the number of wrecks.

In addition to the speed changes, there will be additional ramps for construction crews to get in and out of the site. Signs will be posted at those ramps, and blue signs will be place at driveways along the highway.

Construction is set to be completed in 2011. The project is the largest ever undertaken by the Bryan District of TxDOT, slated at more than $100 million.