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Breaking down the Monday highway closure

March 6th, 2013 by Tad Sooter

blog.agatecrash

A head-on collision just south of the Agate Pass Bridge closed Highway 305 for nearly four hours Monday afternoon. Two drivers were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center and remained in serious condition Tuesday afternoon.

Response to the collision closed the highway in both directions from about 2-5:30 p.m. Monday. Backups stretched for miles.

We’ve heard from a few frazzled commuters and followers on social media wondering why the highway remained closed for so long after the drivers were evacuated. It’s a fair question, and I thought it would be interesting to break down what goes into a response of this nature, according to first responders:

  • The collision was reported at 2:09 p.m. Monday by Bainbridge Fire Assistant Chief Luke Carpenter, who happened to driving from the island to a meeting in Bremerton at the time. Carpenter was only a few cars behind the sedan involved in the collision when the wreck occurred.
  • About 20 firefighters responded to the scene. The drivers were trapped in their vehicles and had to be cut free. Both drivers were transported away from the scene by 2:35 p.m. The last fire department vehicle cleared at 3:06 p.m. (This aerial image from KOMO nicely illustrates the scope of the scene).
  • With the fire crews and aid cleared, Bainbridge Police began a traffic investigation. Police Lt. Chris Jensen said a comprehensive investigation was warranted because injuries to the drivers were severe and it was unknown whether criminal activity was involved. Investigators photographed the scene, recorded measurements and took notes. They made spray paint markings on the roadway for later reference. This process took about two hours, Jensen said.
  • Once investigators completed their work, the damaged vehicles were removed by tow trucks. Finally, a Department of Transportation crew cleared hazardous debris from the roadway.
  • The highway reopened at about 5:30 p.m., though traffic remained disrupted through the evening commute.

Jensen said he was pleased by the efficiency of the police response and coordination between agencies. He expects the department to release details from the investigation late this week. We’ll post updates as we get them.

(Tad Sooter photo)

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11 Responses to “Breaking down the Monday highway closure”

  1. Rob Says:

    Having been stuck behind my fair share of accidents trying to get to my destination, I understand the frustration people have with this particular accident. However, at the same time, think about this: What if one of those involved in this accident were your father or grandmother? I bet you wouldn’t complain then. Am I wrong? You would want the investigating agency to make sure that they did a thorough and as accurate as possible job determining the cause. If you have an idea to speed up the process without violating the rights of those involved, more power to you. Until then, suck it up buttercup and deal with it.

  2. brizzolata Says:

    If people would pay attention and treat driving like a priority or stay sober, we would not be having this conversation. Head on collisions are not ‘accidents’, they are mistakes.

    Loathe as I am to sit in traffic for two hours, if it means that an innocent, severely injured person will be compensated for their injuries due to a neglectful driver (vs. not being compensated because there wasn’t enough evidence), I guess I’ll have to wait.

    Because if it were me or you or your loved one, you know it’s the right thing to do.

  3. fletc3her Says:

    I don’t think anybody questions the time that the first responders take to get the people out of the cars and on their way to the hospital. Of course the lives of the people in the collision are most important. Anything that can be done to save them is worth whatever inconvenience it causes.

    However, I do question whether the additional closure so the police can do a full onsite investigation is in the best interests of the community. Given the constrained nature of this roadway and how it is the only link between Bainbridge Island the rest of the peninsula I would hope the police would do whatever possible to open the highway to limited traffic as soon as possible.

    For what it’s worth I wasn’t anywhere near the scene of the accident so I wasn’t inconvenienced in the least. I speak solely about the tradeoff of a full accident investigation versus thousands of people who were stuck for hours on a major arterial.

  4. bainbridgecapt Says:

    After the scene is cleared, why is there not police at the intersection of 305 & Day Rd. and at the intersection of 305 and Suquamish Rd , running the traffic lights so the priority is on 305 for about 5 minutes then the side roads for 2 minutes. The excuse that they do not have the man power is not truthful. They have people in their cars who could get out of their cars for around 45 minutes to 1 hour and the roads would be pretty much cleared up, not like the 2 to 3 hours it took on Monday. Something must be done to clean up the massive traffic jam that occurs during these times.

  5. Gregg M Says:

    @fletc3her,
    Can you propose an alternative investigation procedure? An on-site investigation is required by WADOT and probably the insurance companies. I really do not care if it inconvenienced the residents of the island or not. 305 is a public highway and is treated as such.

  6. Quin Says:

    I don’t see why they can’t take some quick high quality photos and video of the scene and analyze them in the lab. Measurements can be made off the photos. The DOD and private industry does it all the time. We have the technology.

  7. Quin Says:

    Also, a few commentator’s have said this is a dangerous area of 305, how about placing traffic cameras here and by the bridge. I would rather my gas taxes pay for traffic safety than subsidizing King County buses. I’m thinking of getting a dash can, I know I drive defensively, but there are too many aggressive and inattentive drivers out there.

  8. sjw Says:

    You all are missing the point. We, as a society, are responsible for understanding the “why” behind the crash in order to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. I just question why there is a non standard two lane bridge off the island, compounding the effects of crashes, which are numerous, in this location. We need another lane or two off the island. Wake up!!!

  9. Tad Sooter Says:

    The need for improvements to Agate Pass Bridge has been brought up by many commenters in this conversation. For context, this is the latest we’ve heard on WSDOT’s plans for the area: http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2012/oct/23/planning-begins-for-suquamish-way-intersection/?partner=RSS#axzz2Mb0JvrJZ

    Simply put, bridge improvements are not on the horizon. Here is the portion of Ed Friedrich’s story relating to the bridge, beginning with comments from WSDOT’s T.J. Nedrow:

    Nedrow, the project manager, warned not to expect changes to Agate Pass Bridge. It’s not even on the department’s 20-year list of improvements. The city of Bainbridge Island wants Highway 305 to remain a two-lane road. Anything DOT plans would look out 20 to 30 years.

    “For us to build to the future, that bridge would be accommodating all modes of traffic,” Nedrow said. “It would accommodate Kitsap Transit services. Certainly it needs to be beyond two lanes, to have wider shoulders, pedestrian sidewalks. At this point, one could suggest it needs to be three or four lanes. With that you still haven’t addressed the fact you have two lanes at each end of the bridge.”

    A skinny, 62-year-old bridge a stone’s throw from the intersection makes improvements more difficult.

    “With an Agate Pass Bridge replacement decades into the future, we need to analyze and review how we can improve the intersection design to allow smoother and safer travel through the corridor,” Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder said.

  10. Jill W. Says:

    The bridge is a life line for both Bainbridge and Kitsap Peninsula. Despite the Bainbridge notion that your I.Q. drops 25 points when you cross the bridge and it needs to be blown up! Bainbridge needs the people who cut their hair, stack their produce, run the gas stations, be a teller at their bank, bake their pull a-parts, make their pizza, reception at the Clinic, crew the ferry, be a day care worker, & so forth. Kitsap people need Bainbridge for the ferry access (yes, it’s a STATE ferry!), a place for employment, strawberries, wine, and really good yard sales.
    The point is we need to stop this back and forth and start thinking ahead together. A 2nd or even a 3rd way on and off Bainbridge is an absolute necessity. Unforseeable natural diasters alone are a good reason. Time saving trips to Harrison Emergency is another. Also the availability of 1st responders to get to and from other communities. ie: 4 alarm fires. We need to start thinking of the once and future BIG PICTURE and stop this petty bickering and governmental excuses!

  11. Michael Mesic Says:

    Delays related to serious traffic accidents are inevitable, as many commenters have noted. And replacement or expansion of the bridge itself is unlikely in the foreseeable future. What may be possible, however, is a reduction in the likelihood of additional accidents. As a frequent user of the bridge, I’ve noticed that many drivers heading to the bridge from Bainbridge Island appear to cut the turn as they near the bridge. A small miscalculation or moment of in attention and they could be over the line.

    Why not use some inexpensive, but potentially effective measures to reduce the risks inherent in the road and bridge design? For instance, reduce the speed limit near and over the bridge; put in video enforcement of the speed limits; install yellow rubber lane dividers that are flexible but make a strong visual reminder of where your lane ends and the oncoming lane begins; and perhaps signs that provide warnings of the danger the approaches and the bridge represent. If all the inexpensive things could be done, we might see a less frequent repetition of the regrettable events of this week and last year.

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