Was the road properly treated before the Texas pileup crash that killed 6? Lawmakers call for answers

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FORT WORTH, Texas (NewsNation Now) — After the 133-vehicle pileup crash Thursday morning that killed 6, questions remain about the pretreatment of the roadway and if it was adequate for the icy conditions, which officials say appear to be a factor in the crash.

Friday morning, Texas House Committee on Transportation Chair Terry Canales called for a comprehensive investigation into the tragedy. In a press release, Canales said in part:

I have spoken to state legislators from the region, and they expressed concerns that this roadway may not have been sufficiently pre-treated for icy weather prior to the event. If this is true, regardless if it is the responsibility of a private entitity to treat the North Tarrant Express, it is wholly unacceptable, and I’m calling on the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of Public Safety to conduct a complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding Thursday morning’s traffic disaster.

Terry Canales

At the Thursday afternoon press conference, a reporter asked Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes if the road had been treated prior to the accident after he indicated ice appeared to be a factor in the deadly crash while cautioning the investigating was still in the preliminary phase.

“That is going to be part of the ongoing investigation,” Chief Noakes said. “It is my understanding that NTE TEXpress has released a statement that should be made available but we will definitely be getting more information out about that when we have that information as part of our investigation.”

When pressed further, Chief Noakes continued, “Again, I cannot comment on NTE TexPress or their policies and procedures in this type of weather. I’m sure if you were to reach out, maybe you’d get a better response from them.”

So we did. Repeated calls and emails from NewsNation and our Texas affiliate stations Thursday afternoon went unanswered by NTE TEXpress until Friday morning. They released the following statement:

We join the greater community in our thoughts for the accident victims, their families, and those recovering.  NTE & NTE35W maintenance crews started pre-treating the corridors on Tuesday morning in anticipation of inclement weather, and have been treating continuously as they monitor the roadway. We will continue treating the highways through the weekend and into next week, as long as the storm is active. Our crews treat the entire corridor, managed lanes, general purpose lanes, frontage roads and ramps, and operate under the same procedure as the Texas Department of Transportation. Additionally, our message boards throughout the corridors have been alerting drivers of the adverse weather conditions and encouraging them to drive with caution. Currently, the crews are assisting emergency responders to manage the accident scene and clean up in order to reopen the corridor, safely.

Robert Hinkle

TxDOT told NewsNation, “During all winter weather events, TxDOT undertakes proactive, advance measures such as pretreating its roads, which can help prevent ice from sticking. Unfortunately, even with proactive measures, the unpredictable and fast-changing severe Texas weather can still result in some ice accumulating.

Thursday, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price stressed her city crews have been vigilantly sanding.

“We’ve been sanding for a couple of days, we’ll continue that process. We’re working with our partners at TxDOT to continue that.”

State Senator Beverly Powell and Representative Ramon Romero Jr. expressed similar concerns to the ones raised by Canales.

Thursday, Sen. Powell tweeted, “My office has been made aware of reports that the 35 managed lanes where this morning’s deadly accident occurred may not have been properly treated by the operator. We are in contact with TxDot & area transportation leaders. We will be asking questions about the allegations & will update SD10 constituents accordingly. The winter weather conditions that have created dangerous conditions on N. Texas roads will continue throughout the weekend & possibly worsen. It is important to take caution as you move about the region and stay home if possible.”

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