Sen. Rodríguez: Give Prada Marfa visitors a brake

VALENTINE – How many times have you dodged art tourists taking selfies at the Prada Marfa installation west of Valentine or crossing the highway to “shop” the shoes and bags on your way to and from El Paso?

There are now pedestrian crossing signs and the speed limit has been lowered – a bit – at the faux store, thanks to the work of Far West Texas state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso.

The site, Rodríguez told Texas Department of Transportation Executive Director James Bass in a letter dated April 12, has seen a rise in visitors in recent years, which has led to curious drivers parking on the shoulder or right of way on the eastbound lane; as well as westbound visitors either stopping and crossing the highway or taking a U-turn to view installation along the route that had a 70mph speed limit.

“My staff and I have noticed the increase in pedestrian traffic while driving through this area of the district, and I have also been contacted by constituents who drive through the area who have had close calls with pedestrians who are standing on U.S. 90 or attempting to cross the roadway,” Rodríguez wrote in the letter. “As the State Senator for Senate District 29, I am concerned that it is only a matter of time before a pedestrian or a motorist is injured in an accident that could be prevented by taking precautionary measures.”

To mitigate a potential accident, Rodríguez suggested TXDoT lower the speed limit to 45mph, install signage warning drivers of pedestrian activity, establish a rest area/parking area on both sides of the highway near the installation where visitors could take photographs, and install a pedestrian crossing at the site which could be activated by pedestrians on either side of the road.

On May 3, Bass replied to the senator, stating the mitigation of “all of the public safety risk is difficult with the current placement of the art installation at the right of way line.”

The director did, however, say the state would “conduct a speed study to determine if the current posted speed of 70mph warrants a reduction,” and that the department would install signage warning motorists of pedestrian traffic at the site, which was installed in mid-May.

Though the state did not deem it necessary to drop the speed limit to 45 miles-per-hour, a new speed limit was recently posted at 65mph near the installation.