A temporary solution

Until a more permanent solution is put in place, county officials have placed barrels along the intersection of Highway 175 and State Highway 274 to deter future deaths.

Kaufman County has requested that TxDOT install a barrier along the intersection of Highway 175 and State Highway 274 after a second deadly incident at the site.

Last Tuesday at 8:23 a.m., the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department and Kemp Police Department responded to a call notifying them of a submerged vehicle in a pond located just off the road from the intersection. Inside the vehicle, officials found the body of Jamie Manning, a 42-year-old woman who had been reported missing since Monday morning after failing to show up for work that day. Manning’s vehicle had apparently sped through the intersection and into the pond located just 160 feet away from the roadway.

Manning’s death was the second deadly incident at the intersection this year. Back in February, the body of 24-year-old Kaitlin Lawrence was also removed from a submerged vehicle in the pond.

In response to these deaths just two months apart from each other, John Polster, who works for Innovative Transportation Solutions Inc. in Farmers Branch and acts as Kaufman County’s contact with TxDOT has taken action at the behest of Precinct 4 commissioner Ken Cates and the City of Kemp.

“We’re putting up barrels in the interm period while [TxDOT] is still looking at what they can do related to protecting that road from the borrow pit,” Polster said. “TxDOT has a mill and overlay contract htat they just awarded at the end of April. They’re going to order in flashing lights at all of the stop signs.”

While Polster hopes that these measures will help deter other potential deaths at the intersection, he has also requested that TxDOT erect a barrier between the intersection and the pond citing a law passed in 1991 

“If you look on the arial,” Polster explained, “those ponds on either side of the interchange are borrow pits. When they took the bridge over 274, they just borrowed the dirt right there.  In 1991, a law was passed that requires the state to require those property owners to have some type of guard rail barrier system to protect those facilities if they’re within 200 feet of the road. This one’s within 160 feet. All of the TxDOT folks are young and weren’t aware of that. They were initially saying ‘we can’t put anything outside of the clear zone.’ So we gave them the law and so the area office is taking a look at that. We probably will see some type of barricade put up between the roadway and the borrow pit.”

While commissioner Cates called the incident “a terrible tragedy,” he was complimentary of the response of public officials and was hopeful that the county could come to a resolution with TxDOT to help prevent future incidents.

“It’s great to see all of these people come together to try to get something done in the near-term almost immediately and hopefully in the long-term as well.”

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