Man Claims Road near Rio Hondo is ‘Speed Trap’
RIO HONDO – As construction on the Rio Hondo lift bridge continues, drivers said they’re being targeted by law enforcement in congested county roads.
James Stallnaker has lived in Rio Hondo for the past six years. He said he decided to take Cemetery Road to get to the VA in Harlingen. But it ended up costing him after he got stopped by DPS.
"She got me for doing 40 in a 30 (mph zone). But she didn't ask me why or how come,” he said. “She asked me where I was going, I told her the VA. So, she said, 'I'm writing you a ticket for 10 miles over.’”
Many drivers headed to or from Rio Hondo are also taking Cemetery Road. Rio Hondo Police Department Chief William Bilokury said traffic there has increased significantly.
He said the closure of the historic Rio Hondo lift bridge is contributing to the higher traffic.
That's caused the number of accidents to increase, he added.
"It's on a regular basis. At least once or twice a week, on average, that we respond… Typically, it's a major accident that involves injury,” he explained.
Although it's a county road, Rio Hondo police and fire are the closest to the area to respond to accidents there.
However, Bolokury said police won't cite drivers there for speeding unless it's a violation of above 20 miles per hour.
The chief said he welcomes the increased presence from state and county law enforcement.
"People are colliding into each other at speed, and the average speed that people approaching that intersection on Williams Road (is) anywhere from 45 to 70 miles an hour,” he said.
Stallnaker said the area has become a speed trap. He said some of the speed limit signs aren't posted far enough down Cemetery Road to give drivers a chance to adjust to the speed limit.
"I just missed the sign but, (it was my) first time down the road and 40 (miles per hour) is not that big a jump from 30," he said. "You don't notice the difference, unless you're watching your speedometer."
Stallnaker told CHANNEL 5 NEWS he took his concern to the Texas Department of Transportation.
TxDOT spokesman Octavio Saenz said Cemetery Road isn't a TxDOT road, and it’s not up to them to decide where sings are placed on county roads.
We reached out to Cameron County Manager David Garcia. He said his staff is looking into the issue.
"I think they should give all the people their money back that got tickets on this road," Stallnaker said. "I could see somebody doing 100 (miles per hour) or 60,70, 80 cap. But 55? It's questionable because the next road down, looks just like this one and it's 55,” he said.
Stallnaker said he doesn't plan to drop the issue, and he also refuses to pay for the $140 ticket. He said he's requested a hearing on his case, but that could take up to nine months.
Bilokury said law enforcement officers do have discretion when issuing a speeding citation or not. However, bottom line is, speeding is speeding. He added drivers trap themselves when they chose not to follow the posted speed limit.
The police chief said he doesn't foresee traffic letting up in this area since the Rio Hondo lift bridge will remain closed until December.