Lack of guard rail worries Whidbey residents

Some North Whidbey residents are concerned about the lack of guard rail at East Crescent Harbor Rd.

Some North Whidbey residents are concerned about the lack of guard rail at a section of East Crescent Harbor Road, where a vehicle fell off the roadway Friday.

That morning, Richard Sinnott was driving with his two pitbulls, Duke and Athena. He took a moment to grab a lighter, and when he looked up, it was too late. The SUV he had recently purchased for $6,000 rolled down a 25-to-30-foot drop, crashing onto a dirt road and landing on its side.

The dogs ran off, and Sinnott only got a few scratches by climbing out of the vehicle. He called for his dogs, but only Duke returned, showing no signs of injuries.

Later, Sinnott’s crumpled car was pulled up onto the road and towed.

Though the accident was due to a distraction, Sinnott believes the road is unsafe. That particular spot, he said, tends to be particularly dangerous in the winter as it gets icy and doesn’t receive as much sunlight as the rest of the road.

“There should be a guard rail here because of how steep it is and how close it is to the edge of the road,” he said.

And he isn’t the only one.

Just after the accident happened, a resident named Roberta Hartley drove by and noticed with concern — but no surprise — the wreckage. Immediately after, she called Island County Public Works, voicing her concerns and frustration over what she believes was a preventable accident.

“This has been going on way too long,” she said during an interview, recalling another accident involving a first responder vehicle at the same spot years ago. “There isn’t enough awareness of this situation in this particular location.”

In 2015, shortly after moving to Whidbey Island, Hartley wrote a letter to Island County asking for the installation of a guardrail at a section of East Crescent Harbor Road, where 15 years prior her parents had an accident and rolled down what she estimated was a 30-foot drop.

Though the seatbelts saved them from potentially dying, Hartley’s father was airlifted to Seattle to treat his broken back and broken jaw, and had to wear a maneuver brace for six months.

After receiving a “thank you” response with no solution, Hartley could only hope that section of the road wouldn’t get anyone hurt or killed.

“Why not just do a little preemptive roadwork?” she asked.

Hartley wonders why she has seen guard rails in areas she believes are not as dangerous, such as roads adjacent to shallow ditches, while East Crescent Harbor Road remains without one.

“When the weeds grow up you can’t tell that there’s a drop there,” she said. “There is no option — you go off that spot, your car is upside down in the ditch.”

Island County Public Works could not be reached for comment. Every year, Island County develops and adopts a six-year Transportation Improvement Plan, which includes guard rail installations.

Photo by Luisa Loi