A brick wall along North Tarrant Parkway is taking a beating, especially when it rains.
Three times over the last 10 months vehicles have slid off the road and crashed through the same brick wall, which guards neighborhood homes along the busy east-west commuter route, just west of Lakeview Drive.
In each case, the pavement was wet. The most recent incident, around 9 a.m. Sept. 29, sent a young woman to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. She had crashed her 2010 Hyundai Elantra into the wall.
Maureen Patrick and her husband, Marcus Jones, have lived in the Lakeview Drive house next to the brick wall for 11 years. They’ve had to call contractors, get quotes and deal with the hassles of filing insurance claims against the drivers five times in those 11 years. Another two accidents in that spot caused minor damage to a tree and shrubs but didn’t knock down the wall.
Two other crashes just west of their yard damaged a utility pole and a neighbor’s section of fence, and knocked out power to Lakeview Drive and a few adjacent blocks.
“We’ve started to worry about our safety every time it rains,” Patrick said. “What if a semi-truck loses control in that spot?”
Alonzo Linan, public works director for the city of Keller, said that the brick wall — it’s on the north side of North Tarrant Parkway, from just west of Lakeview Drive to Highland Lakes Drive — has been damaged 12 times in seven years.
‘It’s a physics problem’
Why is this stretch of road so dangerous?
The speed limit is tricky. As drivers head east on North Tarrant Parkway in North Richland Hills the speed limit is 45 mph, but it drops to 40 mph in Keller and 35 mph near the dangerous curve, which is less than half a mile from where the speed limit changes.
There are also issues with the road having a slight downhill slant, a curve and its surface.
“While it’s a traffic concern, in the end it’s a physics problem,” Linan said. “The speed, the curve, a hump in the roadway and a slant at a bad angle, all that comes together at the wrong time.”
After a crash in April, city workers installed a sign to warn drivers of the curve and intersection and to advise a speed of 35 mph.
Linan said city officials tried to persuade transportation authorities to come out and carve some grooves into the road surface’s for several blocks to give vehicles more traction, but the project was too small to garner interest.
The temporary solution following the Sept. 29 crash was to set up orange and white barriers to mark the curve and add an extra layer of protection.
The long-term answer would be to rebuild the roadway to improve the surface and eliminate the wrong-way tilt, Linan said.
‘It’s just a matter of time’
North Texas Parkway used to be two lanes from Whitley Road in Keller to Davis Boulevard in North Richland Hills before it was expanded to four lanes in Keller and six lanes in North Richland Hills.
The speed limit on the Keller stretch was changed from 30 to 40 mph in late 2012, not long after the construction project was completed.
Councilman Ed Speakmon, who lives nearby, said he would make sure that he and his colleagues discuss fixing the dangerous stretch of road.
“We need to get with the City Council and have a more in-depth discussion about money and what it will take to get it fixed,” Linan said. “It’s less to do with time and more to do with dollars because it’s not in the current budget.”
Depending on the scope of work, the repairs could range from a few hundred thousand dollars for spot improvements around the curve to $2 million or more if the whole stretch is rebuilt, Linan said.
For any significant improvements, the city also would have to get approval and coordination from the North Texas Council of Governments because of the high usage of the road at almost 20,000 vehicles a day.
The widening project was funded by Keller, North Richland Hills and Tarrant County, with the county paying for about 65 percent of the costs.
Patrick is frustrated that not much has been done to date. She’s been communicating with the city after each accident since 2013.
“If they don’t fix it, I think it’s just a matter of time before someone gets killed,” she said.