On Wednesday afternoon, Ann Mitchell, 87, stepped out of her patio door in Chapel Hill to see a gasoline tanker in the middle of her yard.
A Toyota Camry had stopped on Highway 64 East to make a left turn on Wolfe Lane, but was struck from behind by a car and then struck again by a tanker when it was pushed into oncoming traffic.
The wreck left two adults and an infant hospitalized, and caused the gasoline tanker to skid through the trees and into Mitchell’s lawn, where it leaked an abundance of gasoline.
As of Wednesday, all three patients remained in the hospital, according to DPS.
“It’s been a dangerous highway,” Mitchell said. “The traffic is terrible. The 18-wheelers and oil tankers are on the road all the time.”
For Mitchell, crashes along that highway are nothing new, but the incidents seem to be increasing and she wants something to change.
A Chapel Hill resident for more than 40 years, Mitchell believes left-hand turn lanes for Highway 64 and Wolfe Lane and a speed limit reduction would help improve safety.
Texas House of Representatives District 6 Rep. Matt Schaefer said after talking to first responders and people that live in the area, it’s very clear that it’s a dangerous road that needs to be addressed.
He’s reached out to the Texas Department of Transportation in an effort to find both immediate and long-term solutions for the intersection.
He said there have been general discussions over the years about that area’s safety, but Wednesday’s crash left a great impact.
“I needed to go out there myself,” he said. “I think it really has hit home for me.”
He said a short-term solution could include adding flashing lights to alert people to the change in speed limit and upcoming intersection.
He added that lowering the speed limit is also a possibility through a specific process.
A long-term solution, which would take more of a fight, is to add turning lanes, Schaefer said, noting that it’s a big need for that intersection.
This would take a funding and there would be competition among roads across the state to secure those necessary dollars, Schaefer explained.
“We’re going to ask for it and we’re going to try,” he said.
For residents like Mitchell, Schaefer said he wants them to know their concerns are being heard.
“This has my attention. It has TxDOT’s attention,” Schaefer said. “And it means fighting for resources, we’re going to do that.”
Schaefer said there is a constant effort to improve infrastructure in East Texas as well as the rest of the state.
Schaefer said TxDOT is good about working with community input and has shown a willingness to help. He added that traffic studies have been done in the past, but wrecks seem to be increasing.
As she sits in her home, Mitchell said she’s often disturbed to see all of the wrecks through her living room window.
“They need to do something before something bad happens,” Mitchell said. “If I had a nickel for every accident I’ve seen out here, I’d be richer than Donald Trump.”
Mitchell said her property is near a mobile home park, where a lot of kids going to school live. She fears the day that a school bus might be involved in a wreck.
“They’ve never done anything about left-hand lanes,” she said. “A tanker cannot stop on a dime. I’ve seen two people killed out here.”
The tanker on Wednesday spilled gasoline in her yard. Mitchell said that hazmat crews were still working on the clean-up Thursday afternoon.
As crews worked to clean and dig through her yard, Mitchell continued to worry about the dangers for drivers, not her property. She’s even willing for part of her yard to be used for left-hand turn lanes.
“I’m not worried about the grass. The grass will grow. Jesus knows how to do that,” she said. “But I was worried about the people in the car.”
She said first responders like the Chapel Hill Fire Department are always on Highway 64 working on a crash scene. She is determined to see turn lanes added and the speed limit reduced from 65 to 45 miles per hour.
“The only way you get things done in this country is by you complaining,” she said.
She hopes the state can do something to get left-hand turn lanes and a lower speed limit before the “Lord calls (her) home.”