Sunday, March 9, 2014

University Boulevard crash zone

The stretch of University Boulevard East between Williamsburg Drive and Saint Lawrence Drive has seen dozens of crashes over the years.  All of these crashes have similar circumstances: the road bends to the left, and a driver keeps going straight.  Two of the three houses along this block have high property fences in their front yards.  The fences help keep out the noise and trash from the road.  Unfortunately, these fences get damaged or destroyed every time there is a crash.  Usually it is just the fences that get damaged, but a crash last week was a bit more serious.

Tire marks in the front yard of 100 University Boulevard East.  Photo by the author.

Last week, a driver travelling west on University Boulevard didn't notice the bend in the road.  It hit a fence, ricocheted off a telephone pole, traveled across a front yard narrowly missing a flag pole, hit a van, and came to rest on the corner of Saint Bernadette's property.  I do not know how fast the vehicle was going, but it must have been going way over the speed limit.  The crash happened in the early hours of the morning, and the driver was probably drunk or stoned.

This is one of the more violent wrecks in recent memory, but not the most destructive.  In one crash several years ago, a car struck and destroyed the transformer at Williamsburg Drive and University Boulevard.  This caused a power outage in half of Woodmoor that lasted overnight and well in to the next day.  Another crash destroyed Saint Bernadette School's brick sign and an adjacent telephone pole (the sign was never rebuilt).  Numerous other crashes have resulted in the repeated destruction of the fences on the properties facing University Boulevard.

The fence which was damaged after last weeks crash.  Photo by the author.

As far as I know, none of the houses have ever been directly hit by cars, and no pedestrians have been struck either.  The only injures have been to the occupants of vehicles.  It's a good thing that no pedestrians have been struck, and it is somewhat amazing considering how often crashed happen here.  The location is also somewhat ironic, as it is right across the road from the fire station.  The firefighters and EMTs barely have to leave the station's front ramp to get to accident site.  However, these facts do not negate how dangerous this occurrence is, and more action should be taken to prevent them.

I think the State Highway Administration should install guardrails along this block of University Boulevard.  They installed black and yellow chevron signs 10 years ago, but they do not appear to be working very well.  The signs themselves have been hit several times.  Guardrails would prevent the repeated property damage that occurs during every crash by keeping out if control vehicles on the road.  This measure would not prevent crashes, but it would  greatly mitigate their effects.  The only way to prevent crashes like this would be to have a nightly DUI checkpoint on University Boulevard, but this is impractical and controversial.

Guardrails along University Boulevard near Piney Branch Road.  Image from Google Street View.

There are already guardrails along University Boulevard in Long Branch, where the road also takes an unexpected bend (University Boulevard was never straightened out like other roads around here, it was simply widened from two lanes to six in the early 1960s, leaving sharp bends in tact).  Guardrails, if installed between the sidewalk and the road, could also prevent any pedestrian fatalities from out of control vehicles.  While preventing impaired driving will require a large effort, adding guardrails will not.  

I think this is an inexpensive, common sense solution that could minimize future damage and injury.        

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