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Stats prove 287 Bypass dangerous

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RUSTY WELLER/Ellis County Press Managing Editor

ENNIS - Statistics show what people who live near the Highway 287 Bypass long have claimed -- it's a dangerous road. According to requested statistical data obtained from the Texas Department of Transportation, 287 Bypass hasn't lived up to its promise. From Oct. 14, 1994, through December, 1998, 228 accidents were recorded. Of that total 59 were wrecks resulting in physical injury. Three were fatalities, and 22 involved incapacitating injuries to one or more people.

The past two weeks there have been five more serious wrecks, including two fatalities.

'It's a death trap,' said Nell Keas when informed of the statistics. She and others dispute the fatality total. She believes it's now more than 10.

'Something really needs to be done about it,' she said. 'But what, I don't know.'

Angered residents point to four dangerous points on the problem-plagued bypass:

* The banked curve joining it to I-45.

* The intersection with FM 1187.

* The intersection with Ensign Road.

* The banked curve joining it to 287 Business.

TxDOT is blamed on two counts. First, officials originally stated the road would have state-of-the-art safety design factors to prevent such accidents and fatalities. Yet two 18-wheelers overturned on the curves on either end of the bypass.

Second, TxDOT has refused to provide overpasses at the two dangerous intersections. Motorists cross from a stop sign against traffic that's often going 65 to 70 mph.

Nell and husband L.C. Keas live on Ensign Road. They joined others in a group called Citizens for Responsible Government that went before TxDOT in Austin to call for safety measures. CRG called for redesigned ramps and overpasses.

The group no longer meets, and the Keas' health no longer will permit them to champion the cause.

Crossing 287 Bypass at Ensign is particularly deceptive. Ensign intersects the bypass atop a hill on a curve.

'You can't see up over the hill,' Nell said. 'People think they have room or enough time to get across, but they don't.'

The bypass also has bumps and rough spots 'that'll make you hit your head on the roof of your car,' Nell said. 'It's really bad. We're going to have to get another group together.'

Accident statistics show seven accidents in the first two weeks the bypass was open. Eighteen were logged in the last two and a half months of 1994. More than 60 accidents happened throughout 1995 after the road's newness wore off. The month of June, 1994, was particularly destructive, producing four accidents with incapacitating injuries.

A total of 63 accidents were recorded in 1996, with 35 in '97 and 49 in '98. Officially, two fatalities were logged in 1998 along with 10 accidents with serious injuries.

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