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T-bone crash sends two to hospital, driver signs online petition for ODOT to prioritize improvements

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Several crashes, both deadly and injury-causing, have been reported at the intersection of Highway 30 and Bennett Road. ODOT has plans to improve the intersection along with Millard Road, but some think the priorities need to be readjusted.Some Columbia County residents are trying to get the Oregon Department of Transportation to prioritize safety improvements at the intersection of Highway 30 and Bennett Road after a rash of severe crashes going back more than a decade.

Most recently, a two-vehicle crash at the intersection Friday night, March 3, just after 7 p.m., sent two to the hospital.

Robert Bainbridge, of St. Helens, was turning left off Bennett Road onto Highway 30 to drive east toward Scappoose when his vehicle was T-boned by another car.

At the time of the crash, Bainbridge said he was unable to exit through the door of his SUV, but could see flames under the hood and knew he needed to get out. He climbed through the window to escape.

The passenger of the other car also escaped, and the two worked together to extract the injured driver.

The crash sent both drivers to the hospital and totaled Bainbridge's 1998 Chevy Blazer, he said. Although he was not seriously injured, Bainbridge said he knows of a number of crashes that have occurred at that intersection. In 2008, 28-year-old Jeff Little was killed in a crash involving a logging truck along that portion of the highway. In 2010, 23-year-old Kristina

Brixey died in a crash with a cement truck there.

ODOT has identified the intersections of Millard Road and Bennett Road with Highway 30 as areas of needed improvement, and has allocated $4 million toward building a light at Millard and restricting left-turn lanes onto the highway at Bennett.

Teri Stoffer, Little's mother, created an online petition to encourage ODOT to begin with improvements at Bennett Road rather than Millard Road, as she said they are currently defined.

A project summary timeline on ODOT's website indicates improvements at Millard and Bennett roads are occurring in tandem, with planning already underway and construction expected to start in spring 2018.

While the petition was not triggered by Friday's crash, Bainbridge said he supports the effort to prioritize Bennett Road improvements.

Although Bainbridge's injuries were not that serious, he said some sort of improvements should be made to make drivers more aware of the intersection. During the crash, he said he waited until he saw a break in traffic before maneuvering across the highway, but "didn't even see the other car until he hit me."

Although Bainbridge is not sure of the best solution to make the intersection safer, he said he knows something needs to be done.

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