TxDOT adds safety measures to intersection where UT football player, UT grad died

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Photo Credit: Dan Martinez | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Department of Transportation added a median and “no left turn” sign to a West Austin intersection in response to the community’s safety concerns, TxDOT spokesperson Bradley Wheelis said.

At least 84 people were injured at the West Austin intersection from 2015 to 2019, according to an August 2019 report by KVUE. UT football player Cedric Benson and graduate Aamna Najam died at the West Austin intersection of RM 2222 and Mount Bonnell Road in August 2019.

Benson and Najam were riding on a motorcycle down RM 2222 when they crashed into a van turning left onto the road. The fatal crash pushed neighbors near the intersection to advocate for safety measures to prevent further crashes at the location.

The median and sign will help block cars from crossing the intersection, KVUE reported.

“Following the crash which killed Cedric Benson, TxDOT and the City of Austin agreed to install a median that prevents left-in/left-out turns at Mount Bonnell Road and RM 2222 to address safety concerns at the intersection,” Wheelis said in an email.

John Bianco, senior associate athletics director of sports communications and media relations, said in an email that he worked closely with Benson while he was a football player for the University.

“Cedric Benson is one of the greatest football players in Longhorn and NCAA history and a cherished member of the Texas Athletics Family,” Bianco said. “It was a horrible tragedy losing him in a motorcycle accident last summer.”

Benson was a four-year starter for Texas football and was recognized in 2004 as the nation’s top running back with the Doak Walker Award, according to The New York Times. He ranks 10th overall in Division I history and was selected as the fourth overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, The New York Times reported. 

“We miss him every day, but his records, accomplishments and what he did for The University of Texas will never be forgotten,” Bianco said. “He was a special, special person who loved being a Longhorn and someone we all cared deeply about. If his legacy also allows for the intersection where he lost his life to be a safer place, that certainly will be a blessing.”

Chemical engineering junior Santiago Diaz-Arauzo said he grew up watching Texas football with his family and started watching Benson play for Texas when he was 6 years old.

“He was a phenomenal player,” Diaz-Arauzo said. “He was very strong and very, very fast. He had the overall package for running backs in college football that you don’t really see … I guarantee you a lot of people remember his name.”

Diaz-Arauzo said he respects Benson not only for being a top UT player but also for staying connected with the University and the city of Austin after his UT career.

“I’ll always remember Cedric Benson for the bands he used to put around his forearms,” Diaz-Arauzo said. “He was such a force on the field, and anyone that knows football would tell you that.”