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TxDOT plans task force for wrong-way drivers

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Posted at 10:22 PM, Mar 07, 2023

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Texas Department of Transportation is working to establish a wrong-way driver task force.

6 Investigates began digging into wrong-way accidents on the Harbor Bridge and US 181 following the deaths of Mathew Banda and Betsy Mandujano in November of 2022.

That investigation revealed some southbound Harbor Bridge exits contribute to these dangerous, deadly wrong-way accidents. Abbott said the situation is "extraordinarily dangerous and the danger is not acceptable."

At least eight people have died from wrong-way accidents on that stretch of roadway, between 2015 and 2022, and others have narrowly avoided a collision.

"We understand that Portland, Portland Chief (of police) is seeing some issues as far as wrong-way drivers in that area that we're not aware of because they don't come out on the crash system report so if we're not aware of them we can't take care of these issues not only for harbor bridge but any other area," said Valente Olivarez, Corpus Christi District Engineer for TxDOT.

TxDOT is looking to establish this wrong-way driver task forcewith the Department of Public Safety because they say they don't have the data they need to fix issues.

6 Investigates asked TxDOT how many people had died on the southbound stretch of the Harbor Bridge and US 181 due to wrong-way accidents over a period of 10 years, via a Public Information Request, and they responded with one.

Portland Police Chief Mark Cory said he informs TxDOT representatives about the wrong way issue every time they meet, and the measures his officers have to take to prevent loss of life.

Olivarez said Tuesday he had not spoken with Cory and the task force would help minimize miscommunication and be a central location for sharing information, and potential solutions.

The problem is something Corpus Christi City Councilors say must be addressed.

"We have to do more absolutely we have to do more we have to continue to do more to protect the people,"Everett Roy, Corpus Christi City Council District 1 said. "I want to make sure whatever it takes to ensure the safety of our people in Corpus Christi that we're going to do and if it requires at the end of the day to make sure that we have to shut something down to ensure their safety then that's what I'm going to look at doing especially as the district one council member as I said before one life is too many."

At-large councilman Mike Pusley diverted a briefing on the new Harbor Bridge by TxDOT, to that of wrong-way drivers on the bridge. Asking the state agency to identify what it was doing to address the issue.

"Right after the accident where two people lost their life we had a meeting up on the 6th floor, myself, the city manager, Chief Markle and several representatives from TxDOT that we were all together on the 6th floor talking about this very issue," said Corpus Christi City Council member Mike Pusley.

The task force will include law enforcement and stakeholders from across multiple jurisdictions, and will tackle not only wrong-way drivers on the Harbor Bridge but any wrong-way driver, Olivarez said.

"We're putting in task force together that include San Patricio Sheriff's Department (Office), our Portland chief as well our Corpus Christi Chief of Police Department and our Nueces County Sheriff's Office, well we're planning to include TABC and DPS so we can share some of these ideas we can tell them what we're doing and we can hear from them they think would help the situation out of what they've seen work and we are absolutely open to any ideas that we could share," said Olivarez.

TxDOT plans on putting in additional signage and or changing traffic patterns around exit ramps, including Power, Padre, Twigg and Broadway Blvd.

We will continue digging into why TxDOT has not had all the data on these wrong-way crashes.

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