ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - For years, Debbie Abens has been praying for changes to US Highway 69 between Huntington and Zavalla.
Abens believes the highway is too dangerous.
"There's not enough safety in this highway," Abens said. "There's not enough."
holding back tears, Abens recalled the time she was hit in her driveway in 2002 and then 11 years later when her friend Michael Yates was killed at the same spot. Yates died in a crash where his vehicle was hit while he was attempting to turn into Abens' driveway. It is a wreck that still haunts Abens.
"I jump out of the bed sometimes because I can still hear...It was like... um It's a sound that trucks make coming by loud," Abens said.
A scheduled expansion is on the horizon as part of a 20-year priority list by the Texas Department of Transportation The $65 million project will expand the two-lane highway to four lanes from Huntington to Zavalla.
The project was approved last week in Austin to go on the 10 year long-term planning list as part of the Unified Transportation Program.
About a mile down the road from Abens lives Elbert McDaniel. McDaniel is new to the area but has heard plenty of stories from his wife and mother-in-law about bad wrecks over the years. he has not seen a fatality yet, but he understands the dangers.
"This little strip right here is like the Indianapolis 500," McDaniel said. "Everyone drives fast through here."
McDaniel had to accept an offer from TxDOT on some of his property to make way for the project. He believes he is losing about 160 feet of green space that he has lined with pink and yellow roses. McDaniel said he thinks the loss of real estate is bearable knowing the safety aspect.
The renovations on the 12-mile stretch of highway is part of a bigger regional improvement to improve traffic flow through the Pineywoods. Drivers agree there needs to be some relief and safety upgrades. Gilbert McCarthy drives between Jasper and Lufkin multiple times a week to pick up supplies for his job. He has seen first hand the dangers involved on the two-lane highway.
"I actually saw someone one morning fall asleep and go on my side of the road into the woods," McCarthy said. "I have to pay attention on the road."
McDaniel is holding out hope that the work coming will fix a major problem.
"It probably will stop it," McDaniel said. "It will be a lot better."
The following projects in the Lufkin region have all been put on the list:
To view the UTP, visit http://www.txdot.gov/government/programs/utp.html