Transportation department will resurvey U.S. 77 South at Fleming Prairie Road

May 12, 2011 at 12:12 a.m.

When traffic slows, a haunting, empty silence echoes atop the hill of U.S. Highway 77 South in front of Speedy Stop.

Faint tire streaks run up and down the hill. One pair of black, rubber screech marks is bold, fresh.

The set of two-foot wide tire marks that travel from the pavement into the grassy median is where a Valley Transit bus en route to McAllen wrecked Wednesday night, killing one woman from Mexico and injuring 21 others.

The woman, Juanita Lopez-Perez, 53, was from Matamoros.

But Lopez-Perez is not the only person who has died along the stretch of road.

Just yards away on Fleming Prairie Road, 19 illegal immigrants perished in a scorching tractor-trailer in May 2003.

And in early 2009, another fatal bus wreck happened about a mile north of the Wednesday night wreck.

"We cringe every time we hear something happens there," said Lonnie Gregorcyk, Texas Department of Transportation-Yoakum District engineer.

The Yoakum district covers Victoria County and 10 surrounding counties.

Several years ago, Texas Department of Transportation made some improvements to the hill and surrounding area, Gregorcyk said.

U.S. 77 South was raised so that traffic coming off side roads and out of the convenience store could be in the line of sight of vehicles traveling south.

An acceleration lane was constructed so that those going into the crossover would not cause traffic traveling at 70 miles per hour to pile up.

This was constructed after a vehicle was rear-ended, Gregorcyk said.

A yield light and signs were also added.

"It's a challenging location," he said. "It generates quite a bit of traffic."

The stretch of highway curves and goes uphill. Plus, there is the convenience store right at the crest of the hill. These elements factor into how difficult it is to find a solution for the road, Gregorcyk said.

Texas Department of Transportation will resurvey the hill because of the wreck, he said. The department will also re-enact the wreck to see what was seen and not seen.

The number of wrecks at the area were not immediately available Thursday.

Linda May, emergency services director with the American Red Cross in Victoria, was at Citizens Medical Center Wednesday night, where several of the 21 injured were taken.

Their major concern was getting home.

"They didn't know what was going to happen next," May said. "They were tired. They were scared."

The Red Cross set up a shelter for the passengers, but all were able to continue on their route late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, she said.

A bus took the passengers to their destination. The passengers arrived in Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley Thursday.

"I think it's a very dangerous area, not only for buses but also for cars," May said. "It's hard to see there. I don't know how they can improve it."



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