Car crash revives road concerns

Published on Thu, Apr 26, 2001 by Meg Olson

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Car crash revives road concerns

By Meg Olson

A Blaine high school student was probably saved by his seatbelt, according to the officer who responded to an accident on the truck route. The teen’s car was totaled by a semi. “He’s lucky, very lucky,” said Blaine police officer Tom Erickson.

At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning the 17-year-old male, driving a 1992 Pontiac, was waiting in the right-hand lane on the east side of the Boblett and State Route 543 intersection, headed toward the school. To his left, a semi prepared to turn left, heading south to the freeway. As another truck was entering the intersection heading north on SR 543, “for some reason the Pontiac proceeded into the intersection,” Erickson said.

Despite the effort of the truck driver to miss the vehicle, the Pontiac was rammed on the driver’s side and thrown 85 feet, landing on the northbound shoulder of the highway.

Erickson said emergency crews first thought the teen’s injuries were more severe but he apparently escaped with abrasions and contusions. He is in stable condition and under observation at St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham.
The driver of the truck suffered shoulder injuries. “He tried to avoid the collision by turning the wheel to the left as hard as he could, hoping the car would veer right, but it kept going,” Ericksen said. While he was unable to interview the car’s driver Ericksen said it was very possible his vision had been blocked by the semi turning south next to him and did not see the northbound truck until it was too late.

Police and school officials expressed growing concern about the safety of the intersection, where a stop sign on Boblett Street is the only traffic control device. “We’ve requested that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) provide some temporary solution until the highway reconstruction project is completed,” said police chief Bill Elfo. “I’ve told them in writing it’s just a matter of time before someone is killed. I renewed that in writing today.”

WSDOT director Paul Johnson said that, following a meeting with city and school representatives last July, the department had made curb and striping improvements to improve safety and visibility of the Boblett Street intersection. Traffic engineers had questionned whether a light at the intersection would be effective so close to the freeway until the road is rebuilt and new signals installed.

“We’re always willing to take another look if what we’ve done is not doing its job,” Johnson said. “I’d hate to ever see anybody get hurt.”

The reconstruction of SR 543, initially planned for last year has been delayed due to funding constraints. Johnson said WSDOT would be ready to put the project out for bid this year and start construction in 2002 if the funding comes through. “We’re fairly confident we’ll get funded, but the legislature has to come up with the funding by delaying another project or finding another revenue source,” he said.

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