New intersection is point of concern

Published on Thu, Dec 13, 2007 by ack Kintner

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New intersection is point of concern

By Jack Kintner

A swerve that developers put into Birch Bay Drive just east of the entrance to Birch Bay Village was the scene of numerous minor accidents over the weekend, including a North Whatcom Fire & Rescue Service (NWFRS) aid car that slid into the ditch with a patient on board last Sunday,

“It’s a dangerous intersection,” said NWFRS Chief Tom Fields. “All our drivers receive emergency vehicle accident training, or EVAT, and are trained to deal with such situations, but it was very icy and too slick for the driver to do anything except wait for help once he got one wheel off the pavement. We didn’t want to put the patient at further risk so we swapped the patient out to a 4-wheel drive unit and got a wrecker to pull the other unit back onto the road.”

Fields added that the patient suffered no further injury due to the accident.

Birch Bay Village resident Bill Hansen was involved in a three-car accident the day before when a pickup truck traveling east on Birch Bay Drive failed to negotiate the swerve and slid broadside into a westbound car being driven by Jerry Stege and in which his wife was a passenger.

Hansen, who was a professional truck driver for 40 years before retiring to Whatcom County, said that he was unable to stop and slid into Stege’s car. “My damage was minimal, but it was frustrating driving home from Oregon in bad weather and get so close, only to have this happen.”

Stege said that both he and his wife have had back pains since the accident. “We deserve better than that. The road should be reconstructed to reduce the grade. Lives are at stake,” Stege said.
Birch Bay Village executive director Meg Grable said that the intersection needs some stop signs. “I was told today [Tuesday] that there have been a couple more accidents there since the weekend,” she said.

The intersection was added to what had been a straight section of Birch Bay Drive when a new connector was built joining it with Semiahmoo Parkway last summer. The work was done by Fred Bovenkamp, the developer of Horizons at Semiahmoo who was required to build the connecting road through the property between Birch Bay Drive and Semiahmoo Parkway as a condition of their building permit.

A street sign at the intersection identifies the connector as Birch Point Road, which now runs from Semiahmoo Drive to Birch Point and is designed as the arterial for eastbound traffic exiting Birch Bay Village and Birch Point. Birch Bay Drive now ends at the new intersection, and was re-routed to intercept Birch Point Road at a 90-degree angle.

Since the new connector isn’t open yet there are no stop signs installed, so traffic on Birch Bay Drive continuing west on what is now Birch Point Road must negotiate a sharp corner at the top of a short 7 percent grade. The county has posted a sign advising traffic to slow to 10 m.p.h. to negotiate the swerve.

Calls to Whatcom County Engineering Development manager Mike Donohue were not returned.