Orange Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Pullen is weary of hearing about night-time pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on MacArthur Drive. He wants citizens to contact State Representative Dade Phelan and State Senator Robert Nichols to get the Texas Department of Transportation to install lights along the thoroughfare.
Pullen, who is a retired captain of the Orange Police Department, held a press conference on his own Tuesday afternoon in a shopping center parking lot. He was yards away from where a 71-year-old bicyclist received fatal injuries after being hit by a car the night of June 22.
Also nearby was a cross with flowers and faded stuffed animals along the roadway. They are a memorial set up for a 25-year-old mother and her 6-year-old daughter. They were killed in the same block while walking across MacArthur in November 2015.
Down the street is another tribute to a mother and child killed on the roadway in 2011. Then there’s the 38-year-old man killed while crossing.
Pullen said the accidents were “all in darkness.” A lack of illumination on the roadway has contributed to the cause of the deaths, he said. Pedestrian and bicycle crashes have happened in the daytime, but they have not been fatal, he said.
MacArthur Drive is part of U.S. 90 and Texas Highway 87. The thoroughfare has three lanes of westbound traffic, three lanes of eastbound traffic, and a turn lane in the middle. The roadway and right-of-way along the roadway are in the city of Orange. The north side of MacArthur Drive is in Pinehurst. The south side is in West Orange.
Pullen said he has talked to people with the TxDOT, which maintains the roadway. He was told installing lighting would cost about $650,000 to $700,000, and the money is not in the department’s budget.
Then Pullen heard TxDOT has budgeted money to remove the outer lanes of each direction of traffic and reconfigure the lanes for bicycle traffic. Still, the project does not include lights.
He said lights will help prevent future deaths. He urged people living in Orange, Pinehurst, West Orange and all who use MacArthur Drive to contact Phelan and Nichols, who represent the county in the Texas Legislature.
Pullen said the state elected officials can work with TxDOT to get the lights needed for MacArthur.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-