CHRIESMAN, Texas (KBTX) – Burleson County residents living near the intersection of Highway 36 and FM 1363 are demanding safety improvements are made to that stretch of roadway after a woman was killed in a crash there Saturday.
60-year-old Martha Ann Martinez was killed at that intersection in a car accident that police say was the result of a distracted driver. Residents in the area say the intersection has been dangerous for at least 50 years.
It’s one lane heading in both directions with cars traveling at over 70 miles per hour. That’s what creates danger for vehicles trying to turn onto FM 1363 off Highway 36 in Burleson County near Chriesman.
“Usually, the primary issue is somebody turning left, although it happens to the right as well. Coming south to turn left on 1363 or heading north to turn left on 1363, there’s no place for them to go,” Chriesman resident Cathy Locke said. “Cars pass on the shoulder to their right which blocks them in. Cars are coming obviously from the oncoming lane that blocks them in. Eventually, they’re just a sitting duck.”
About two dozen residents who live nearby the intersection came out to Front Street Burgers Monday to voice their concerns about the danger they experience at the intersection on a near daily basis. There’s no light, warning signage, or turning lane.
Melissa Eller is another Chriesman resident whose home. The most direct route to her home includes navigating the Highway 36-FM 1363 intersection.
“Cars behind them are stopped. They don’t see that they’re having a left turn lane there,” Eller said. “They just think people are going slow, and people are getting very impatient, and when that person does get to turn left, they’re getting hit and t-boned.”
Locke says the intersection has become more dangerous than ever because the traffic has increased dramatically over the last two years. She attributes that to the housing boom in rural communities in the area that are causing more residents, workers, and truckers to drive on county roads. She also says a county dump, that’s not even a quarter-mile from the intersection, compounds the problem when it’s open on Mondays and Fridays.
Like most of the residents who showed up, Eller says she’s witnessed a number of close calls and heard about just as many bad wrecks. It’s become such a notorious intersection she warns everyone who makes the trip to visit her to be careful beforehand. She recounts an incident that occurred with her son-in-law about six weeks ago.
“As soon as they walked in the house, they were like, ‘I’m so glad you told us about that because what you explained just happened to us. I happened to look in that left mirror right before I turned,’” Eller said.
Eller also says a school bus turns at that intersection five days a week to bring kids to and from school. She says that concerns her.
These residents say the danger has existed there for decades. Carole Varner, who also lives in Chriesman, was hit there turning left on FM 1363 back in 1984. She was coming home with her small children after a back-to-school shopping trip. Thankfully, Varner says her kids were not injured and too young to remember what happened.
“I was turning left to come into Chriesman. A truck from behind, two or three cars back, tried to pass me and t-boned me on my side,” Varner said. “I was knocked unconscious and my car was totaled.”
Varner says she was in and out of the hospital for the next three days and wasn’t doing well. She says she sustained a pretty bad head injury and experienced a lingering headache for months after the crash.
“I don’t turn left there anymore if there’s any cars,” Varner said. “I go down to where the cemetery in Chriesman is, and I turn around and come back and I sit there until I don’t see any cars.”
Shane Lesikar lives close to the intersection as well. The accident he was involved in happened not even two years ago. His daughter was driving when she was trying to turn right onto FM 1363 from Highway 36.
“A vehicle passed the truck behind us on the shoulder, and took the whole front of her car off,” Lesikar said. “If we would’ve been two seconds earlier, that little car that I was sitting in in the passenger’s seat, I wouldn’t be here today. There needs to be action taken to help mitigate those accidents.”
Lesikar says it’s hard for him and his daughter to pull up to that intersection after what happened.
“It scares the crud out of me,” Lesikar said.
They all want changes to be made immediately.
“At the minimum, initially, immediately, give us a no passing zone,” Locke said. “We want to ultimately see a center turn lane. I know that takes time, engineering, and roadwork, but we’re not stopping until we get one.”
“Ultimately down the road, it would be nice to see a light there,” Eller said. “Maybe a quarter of a mile, half-mile back put up a sign that just says ‘dangerous intersection’ or ‘no passing.’”
“In my opinion, it needs to have a turning lane,” Lesikar said. “There needs to be warning lights. There needs to be no passing signs miles ahead of it. I think the intersection needs to be widened.”
“I would like a light,” Varner said. “What they’re saying about marking the road and all that, that’s real good, but when people from out of the area are coming up and down these roads who don’t understand the danger, they are going. They’re moving. There’s a lot of traffic.”
Locke says she’s reached out to TxDOT on numerous occasions over the past two years to push for change. While she says they’ve been receptive, ultimately they tell her traffic engineers don’t see the need for a change at this time.
Written by Andy Krauss