TEMPLE — With Central Texas mired in major road construction projects that will last several more years, the Texas Department of Transportation began a new program to encourage Interstate 35 drivers and remind them to “Be Safe. Drive Smart.”
Thirty-one signs were installed between Denton and San Antonio, with 11 of them in the Waco district, TxDOT spokesman Ken Roberts said Wednesday. Their messages range from “One day you’re going to love I-35. Until then, be careful” to “Not so fast.”
The large orange signs are part of a $500,000 campaign to emphasize driver safety, cut down on accidents and give people hope for the future when projects are completed and driving on I-35 is a more pleasant experience, he said.
The signs in Temple measure 14 feet by 48 feet, and one near Salado is 10 feet by 40 feet. But most of the signs in the Waco district are 14 feet by 48 feet, Roberts said.
Other parts of the funding will be used to create gas pump toppers and to place window clings in convenience stores. Radio and TV advertising will join rolling ads on tractor-trailer rigs to draw attention, as well as posters at rest areas. Facebook and mobile phone ads will add to the reminders.
“With over 60 miles of continuous work zones, we felt we needed to re-emphasize the need to be aware of the construction. More than 15,000 accidents and more than 100 deaths happen in work zones every year,” Roberts said.
In Bell County last year, 674 accidents were reported in I-35 work zones, and five fatalities resulted. In 2009, a total of 432 accidents were reported in work zones and four people died.
In TxDOT work zones in 2013, 17,311 accidents were reported, which included 115 deaths. Those numbers are up from 2009 when 15,050 accidents were reported, along with 109 fatalities.
“Reconstructing an entire highway with ongoing traffic is a tremendous undertaking and creates an extremely dangerous environment,” Roberts said.
The widening of I-35 from the Bell/Williamson county line to the east-west split at Hillsboro, a distance of 94 miles, will cost about $1.9 billion.