Busiest intersection in Stephenville also most dangerous
By Ryan Cox and Azia Branson–
Additional reporting done by Savannah Trantham, Autumn Owens, Sharon Trimble, Julie Gutierrez, Katie Gibbs, Dawelo Sears, and Isaac Foster
Since 2011, the intersection of Wolfe Nursery Road and West Washington Street has produced the highest total number of traffic accidents reported to the Stephenville police department.
With businesses booming in the area and the town of Stephenville continuing to grow with the vast enrollment of Tarleton State University, this heavily congested intersection is becoming a concern for those who travel the route.
According to documents obtained from the Stephenville police department by the Texan News Service last fall, the Wolfe Nursery and Washington intersection has tallied 64 accidents since 2011.
“The city is aware of the situation,” Stephenville chief of police Patrick Bridges said.
“Looking back at two years of data for reportable crashes, the most significant factor is driver inattention. Driver inattention refers to anything that diverts a driver’s attention from operating [their] vehicle. It could be using a mobile device; it could be eating or drinking or another person or animal distracting the driver.”
The intersection is surrounded by popular shopping centers like Wal-Mart and Staples, dining favorites like Chili’s as well as a school zone for Henderson junior high and housing developments for Tarleton students at The Grove.
Having such a cluster of major attractions in a small town creates a swarming intersection at the busiest hours of the day.
Although Washington Street runs through the heart of Stephenville, Mayor Kenny Weldon was quick to point out that the street is actually US Hwy 377, which is controlled by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT).
“TXDOT would be responsible for any engineering changes to the intersection,” Bridges said.
TXDOT could not be reached for comment.
With this intersection not falling under the control of the city of Stephenville, the information was not even brought to the attention of two city councilmen.
“I wasn’t aware that the intersection was dangerous,” City Councilman Brady Pendleton said, who added the city was willing to help find answers to resolve the matter.
One of the biggest traffic concerns was recently resolved when a traffic light was placed at the intersection of Washington and Ollie by the Sonic restaurant. Scott Evans, a Stephenville city councilman, was not aware of the situation either.
“The intersection of Wolfe Nursery and Washington has not been brought up to the council yet, the biggest topic has been the intersection by the sonic that just got a light,” Evans said.
Local businesses can be affected when these intersections have accidents that bring traffic to a halt.
Staples sales associate Sam Burnett gets a front-row view of the intersection from work and he sees firsthand why these accidents occur.
“These are two of the busiest parking lots; there’s a Walmart and a school zone and a lot of people are in a hurry,” Burnett said.
The records indicate this intersection is the busiest, but Stephenville city administrator Mark Kaiser disputes the label of most dangerous just based off the numbers.
Kaiser believes the area being highly commercial in a controlled intersection and the roads having passing and turning lanes help contribute to the numbers reported.
There are many distractions on the roads for drivers these days with people texting and driving, talking on their cell phones and worrying about the radio. Chief Bridges advised many accidents can be avoided just by worrying about the road in front of you.
“If drivers are paying full attention to driving and nothing else, they should be able to avoid most collisions.”
Savannah Trantham, Autumn Owens, Sharon Trimble, Julie Gutierrez, Katie Gibbs and Dawelo Sears contributed to this report.