Family calls for change at Telford entrance
On the morning of Wednesday, September 25, 2019, Johnnie Beck was on his way to the Depot, just like he had been doing for the last 35 years. Tragically, Beck didn’t make it to work that morning, and will never make it to work again, because of a dangerous intersection that has plagued the people of Bowie County for a long time.
Beck was on his motorcycle that morning. That motorcycle is now a crumpled and tangled pile of metal after it ran into the side of a car that was trying to get into the front gate of the Telford Unit.
We spoke with the Beck family last week. We heard of how Johnnie had ridden motorcycles all of his life. He was a seasoned driver. Yes, he had been in accidents before, anybody that rides a motorcycle has been, but he knew how to avoid them. This one he could not avoid, and it cost him his life.
Now his sister, his children, and all of the rest of the family are hurt, and grieving, even angry. They want answers. But most of all, they want change.
They want change because they never want another family to have to go through what they are going through. They want change because no one should ever have a picture on their phone of their brother or father laying on a roadway. They want change, and they need to get it.
The family has spoken with Rep. Gary Vandeaver’s office, they have told their story to the Tribune, and they have spoken to local television reporters. Their story has been seen by thousands since last week.
All they want is change.
The entrance to the Telford Prison Unit has always been a dangerous spot for travelers on that road. There have been so many near accidents there that it would be impossible to count them all.
The question is, are we going to have to wait for change to happen until someone “important enough” dies at that entrance?
There needs to be some changes at that entrance. There needs to be a turn lane, a traffic light and a slower speed limit. There also needs to be some changes in how the prison itself deals with that entrance. Bowie County Sheriff James Prince told the Tribune Monday morning that there was no way for his department to enforce the stop sign, because of the state statute.
According to Texas state law, the stop sign at the prison entrance is pointless. It is a private parking lot, so leaving it only requires people leaving that parking lot to yield to oncoming traffic.
The problem is, that isn’t happening.
The Tribune sat down the road from that prison entrance over a recent weekend and observed car after car leaving that entrance without stopping at the stop sign. According to the law, that is okay. What is not okay is the four cars that exited the parking lot without stopping with oncoming traffic too close for comfort, causing that oncoming traffic to have to drastically slow down.
The way to see change is by talking to the ones who can make change.
The family is urging everyone they can to contact area lawmakers and ask them to make changes. There is an online petition calling for change.
On that petition, signers have said things like, “I’ve had several at the evening hours just pull out right behind the next and totally disregard the fact they had oncoming traffic” and “I pass that entrance every morning with my children on the way to school and then again on the way home. I cannot count the times cars leaving the prison and entering have pulled out in front of me and other cars traveling 70 miles per hour on that road. It is so dangerous for everyone.”
The Tribune has already received word from Rep. Gary VanDeaver’s office that they have discussed the issue with TxDOT officials, and TxDOT will be sending engineers to the site.
Contact information locally for Rep. Gary VanDeaver is Gary VanDeaver, James Bowie County Courthouse, 710 James Bowie Drive, New Boston, Texas 75570. His Capitol address is P.O. Box 2910, Austin, Texas 78768
Contact info for Congressman John Ratcliffe is 223 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515. The local phone number is 903-823-3173 and the Washington D.C. office is 202-225-6673
The change.org petition is titled Barry Telford Highway 98 Entrance Investigation and Traffic Enforcement #JusticeforJohnnie
In the photo, the family has placed a memorial cross near the Telford Unit entrance where Johnnie Beck was killed in a traffic accident on Wednesday, September 25, 2019. The cross stands next to the stop sign at the entrance that goes widely ignored and carries a simple message asking motorists to look twice before entering or exiting the facility.