CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A newly created task force met for the first time Thursday to find solutions to the years of dangerous wrong-way driving on the Harbor Bridge and surrounding communities.
One by one, around 35 stakeholders including Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Corpus Christi Police Department, Portland Police Department and various government officials from San Patricio and Nueces Counties entered the TxDOT building off Greenwood. The new task force met for two hours.
The purpose of the meeting was to find ways to eliminate wrong-way driving on U.S. Highway 181, including the Harbor Bridge. This has been the focus of our KRIS 6 "Facing Danger" reports.
TxDOT said it brought the group together with DPS because they say they don't have the data they need to fix issues.
In our investigation, we found at least eight people have died from wrong-way crashes on that stretch of roadway between 2015 and 2022, and others have narrowly avoided a collision.
One of the attendees, Portland Police Chief Mark Cory, has been vocal about the need to find solutions to wrong-way drivers. His officers have risked their own lives ramming their patrol cars into some of those drivers just to get them to stop. While Cory does not know why it took so long so long to convene this new task force, he is optimistic.
"All I can tell you is for right now, we're lucky enough to have this collaboration come together and we are going to make a difference," Cory said, "I assure you all of this team working together and all of these different agencies working together will bring a stop to what we are facing right now
Top local, county, state law officers, prosecutors, MPO, TABCC, city officials gather for inaugural TxDOT/DPS task force meeting to combat wrong-way, impaired driving in Nueces, San Pat counties. Impressive turnout to fight public threat.
Consensus: Drunk driving root cause. pic.twitter.com/EXNKGtIkqB
— TxDOT Corpus Christi (@TxDOT_Corpus) March 9, 2023
DPS says it will increase patrols around the Harbor Bridge to help stop wrong-way driving and intoxicated driving; the cause of many of the wrong-way driving incidents.
"We're going to be out here, you know, trying to deter anything that's going to happen, we are going to be out here helping out TABC (Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission) conducting bar checks with our fire department as well and make sure that everybody is following the law," said Guadalupe Casarez, DPS spokesman.
All of this action comes just two weeks after Governor Greg Abbott told KRIS 6 News anchor Pat Simon TxDOT's solutions to the dangerous wrong-way driver issue has been "inadequate" and that "action has to be taken."
Since that interview, and at the direction of the governor, TxDOT crews have been re-striping the southbound Harbor Bridge exit ramps at Power Street and Padre Street. They will resume Friday from 9 am to 4 pm. in the meantime, TxDOT said Friday they plan to update the status of the southbound roads and exits near the Harbor Bridge. They hope to send out a route map.
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