Sunday, November 26, 2006

Another I35 Accident - NAFTA Created Too Much Traffic

Just in time for hundreds of thousands of people trying to return home after the Thanksgiving holiday, another major traffic accident happened today outside of Waco involving an 18-wheeler truck. It seems like almost every week there is a major accident on I35 here in Central Texas as small cars, motorcycles and huge trucks try to navigate their way between San Antonio, Austin and Dallas, Texas. Since Waco is halfway in-between Austin and the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex, we see more than our fair share of these accidents, which leave travelers either injured badly or killed. Today’s accident involved an 18-wheeler truck, which jack-knifed, and then the cab of the truck ended up in traffic going one way and the trailer ended up in traffic going the opposite direction. The driver of the truck was removed using the “jaws of life” and right now I don’t know what his condition is, but he was flown to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center by helicopter because there was no way to get an ambulance into this terrible traffic mess.

A few days ago, I needed to visit a coworkers house when his car wouldn’t start and couldn’t get to work. On the way to his house, I took a route, which went through the center of town, and I found out that idea was a bad mistake on my part because the traffic was terrible because of folks shopping for after Thanksgiving sales at local retailers. On the way back from this coworkers house, I decided to take I35 instead and it wasn’t any better. Traffic was bumper to bumper in both directions and I must admit that I was a bit scared when large truck after large truck were passing me by like I was sitting still, even though I was traveling at the speed limit of 70 MPH. Unless I am traveling out of town and have no other option, I usually avoid I35 at all costs. There are people killed everyday on this Interstate Highway and no matter what the State of Texas tries to do to improve conditions, traffic just seem to get worse all the time.

On our late local news tonight, the anchor said that traffic on I35 was backed up for over 20 miles even after the highway opened back up after hours of being shut down. Usually, road crews are able to reopen I35 more quickly, but one of the cranes they brought in to lift the overturned 18-wheeler truck from the highway, fell over onto its side. Then road crews were forced to bring in another large crane to remove the first crane and then they still had to remove the overturned truck. Mind you, this is all happening on the Sunday night after a Thanksgiving Thursday and I think everyone who has traveled anywhere on this busy holiday would have some idea of how bad traffic conditions were, even without a major truck accident on I35.

Only a few short weeks ago, another 18-wheeler truck was cut off in traffic, which lead to a terrible traffic accident on the north side of Waco. That accident killed both truck drivers that were involved in the accident when the one truck, which cross the center median, hit another large truck head on. Both of those trucks burst into flames and one of the trucks burned for over 24 hours because it was carrying asphalt roof shingles which are very flammable and hard to put out by firefighters. There is a big reason why there so much death and destruction on I35, and that reason is NAFTA. When the US entered into this trade agreement it caused an explosion of big rig truck traffic on I35 which is a main artery between Central America and Mexico into the United States. Every single year, more big rig trucks are traveling up and down I35, but capacity has not increased and many of these big 18-wheeler trucks are not safe because some foreign truck owners and governments, look the other way when it comes to keeping their rigs safe enough to pass US inspections for highway safety.

Traveling up and down Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Dallas Texas is dangerous enough without having sub-standard trucks from Mexico and Central America sharing the roadway. However, if you add these large, unsafe, trucks to the mix of traffic on this already overcrowded Interstate, a disaster is just waiting to happen and that is exactly what has been happening the past few months with frequency here in Central Texas. People should not be put in this much danger just because they want to visit family and friends over the holidays. If the US and the State of Texas want to benefit from the NAFTA treaty, then they must make sure that certain safeguards are put into place to protect the public from trucks which would not pass inspection here in the State of Texas. I do not believe that the truck involved in today’s accident was from outside the US, but I don’t know that for a fact, as of yet.

It is so important that financial interests in the United States don’t have a stronger voice in public safety than the average American who pays, through taxes, to keep this huge highway open and moving people through the day and night. Something must be done soon to ease the traffic on I35 or even more and worse disasters are going to happen, repeatedly, over the next few months and years. The State of Texas is proposing a new superhighway to take the place of I35, but even if such a highway is eventually approved and funding found to build it, the final product will take almost 50 years to be brought to completion. Right now, there must be another plan put into place where many of these foreign 18-wheeler trucks are rerouted via other highways to take the stress off of I35. Enough people have been killed already and the time for action is at hand for both state and federal lawmakers.

There is no way to prevent traffic accidents and no matter what is done there will be fatal accidents and others with injuries which will continue to occur on I35 and other major US highways. However, the odds of something going wrong where people are killed are much too high right now and something must be done to protect the public from this unacceptable danger.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mark- I just wrote TXDOT about a situation in Salado with construction. THey heeded by warning and moved the concrete barriers back for us to have our shoulder back. I worried sick for our residents around here with the mess on I-35. I'm at a point where I can predict an accident. There were two more accidents today near the spot I wrote TXDOT about. Yes, NAFTA created a nightmare! With 55 mph we could handle it! But the higher speeds with construction-NO way! I won't go near Dallas!