More than 97,000 people have signed a petition requesting the speed limit be lowered on a dangerous stretch of Highway 48 between Brownsville and Port Isabel.
For the past several years, hundreds of brown pelicans have been killed by motorists on this deadly span of highway near the Gayman Channel, where the speed limit is 75 miles per hour, and the public outcry for change is gathering momentum daily.
Unfortunately, the tragic scenario has occurred for nearly 10 years now along this busy roadway as pelicans fly into strong northerly winds while attempting to reach their roosting site in the Bahia Grande Unit of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
Many pelicans crash into the concrete barriers separating four lanes of traffic and extending along the highway’s shoulder. The solid four–foot high wall atop the raised roadway creates a deadly turbulence forcing low flying birds downward.
While the Texas Department of Transportation after years of study has finally agreed to replace the concrete barriers with “concrete rails” a year from now, that they say will eliminate the problem of the deadly downdraft, they thus far refuse to lower the speed limit.
During each cold front with strong north winds, volunteers risk their lives to rescue pelicans from the roadway. By reducing the speed limit motorists, volunteers and fishermen, who frequent the area year round, would be better protected.
Boyd Blihovde, Manager of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, states that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have officially requested the Texas Department of Transportation consider reducing the speed limit to protect pelicans and pedestrians.
“It is only a matter of time unfortunately until some accident occurs. People are naturally going to want to avoid a pelican and swerve out of the way of a pelican. And when they are going 75 mph or greater, and the road conditions are wet, that is just a recipe for an accident to happen.”
Careful calculations have shown that by reducing the speed limit on the approximate two mile stretch between the Jamie Zapata boat ramp and just beyond Gayman channel from 75 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour would only result in a single minute loss of travel time, and could save lives.
If you would like to support pausing for pelicans and pedestrians go to: