Public Works surveying Banner Jump
June 12, 2008 · Updated 10:12 AM
"After 16-year-old twins Shary and Cevi Arnold were in a nearly fatal car accident on Banner Road last year, their mother, Juliua Stroup, began lobbying Kitsap County Public Works to take some of the shine off Banner Jump.While Public Works has begun a topographic survey of the steep road, it could be years, if ever, before it's regraded to eliminate what has become a hazardous thrill.Doug Bear, public information programs supervisor for Kitsap County Public Works, said any road construction would have to be approved by the county. The entire intersection would have to be rebuilt, he said. That competes with all the other capital improvement projects (countywide), he said.Once gathering of topographic data is complete, Public Works engineer Chuck Shank said the main obstacle could be deciding on a design. After that, the department would have to seek funding. Within six years, it could be done, he said.Stroup had just arrived at home Aug. 12, 1999 when she received a phone call from her daughter, Shary. The girls had been at a basketball camp and were catching a ride home from another girl.They were supposed to come straight home, Stroup said. It wasn't common for us to let them go in someone else's car.Shary called and was crying and said, 'Mom, we've been in an accident and Cevi doesn't look too good.' I thought maybe a broken arm or a broken leg, she said.After basketball camp let out for the evening, three girls - Shary and Cevi were passengers - went to check out the Banner Jump on the advice of a fourth girl they dropped off earlier.Just before the Fragaria Road intersection, Banner Road drops into a steep, downward slope. It levels off for several feet where Fragaria Road crosses and then drops off sharply. Even going the speed limit, the dip creates the sensation of dropping in an elevator.The girls tried the jump several times, going faster each time. The car landed the last jump, but the driver lost control when the tail bottomed out and scraped the road. She swerved off one shoulder and then around to the other shoulder before striking a light post. They sheared off a light post where Cevi was sitting, Stroup said.Cevi had to be cut out of her seat belt and airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Her pupils wouldn't react to light and medics initially thought she was dead.Shary told her mom she remembered going more than 100 miles per hour over the jump before they crashed.Officials at Public Works have argued that if drivers get into accidents because they are speeding, it's not the department's responsibility to change the road.The Kitsap County Sheriff's Office oversees traffic enforcement on Banner Road.Our responsibility is to engineer roads according to standard procedure. We can't control how fast people go. Accidents that have happened there generally involve excessive speeds. The road seems to be fine if you drive the speed limit, Bear said.Cevi spent three months between Children's Hospital and Harborview Medical Center in Seattle recuperating from the accident. During her recovery, doctors removed her intestines to relieve pressure on her diaphragm so they could inflate her lungs. They drilled into her skull to relieve pressure. They removed a kidney and her spleen.Parents need to know. No matter how much they trust their kids, parents need to know, Stroup said. I didn't even know there was something called 'Banner Jump.'In fact, they don't even live near Banner Road. They live out toward Belfair, she added.Cevi has become something of a spokeswoman for vehicular safety. Their accident has stopped a number of kids, but kids still do the Banner Jump, Stroup said. While Cevi spoke to her classmates, Stroup worked to improve safety on Banner Road, urging Public Works to reduce the speed limit, put in a stop sign and regrade. But, she said, the speeding itself still needs to be addressed.It's ... general behavior. If it's not Banner Jump, it'll be another road, she said. I want them to learn from our experience. Kids just have to slow down.Though the accident occurred more than a year ago, Cevi still visits a neurosurgeon once a week. She recently lost sensation in her legs and she suffers from abdominal paralysis. Though she makes good grades - she currently has a nearly perfect GPA at South Kitsap High School - she struggles with short-term memory loss, Stroup said. This kid - she did endurance competitions with me. She was very active, smart, sweet before the accident, she said. Now, Cevi walks with a pronounced limp, her limbs don't work right and her neck is fused. She lacks a kidney, vital for filtering toxins out of the blood, and a spleen, the immune system's first line of defense in detecting infections. When Cevi runs a fever of 101 degrees, she has to go to the hospital. I kiss her forehead to make sure she's not hiding a fever, she said.She is often frustrated and angry that the crash happened to her and she doesn't even remember it, Stroup said.Regrading to take the jump out of Banner Road would be a difficult process.Shank said Public Works engineers would have to raise the road bed to eliminate the plateau at Fragaria Road from which speeding motorists catch air.But, altering Banner Road could introduce new safety issues. Regrading could affect water run-off, for example, contributing to ice build-up and presenting a problem for motorists and emergency vehicles.A wetland near the road would require an environmental assessment and mitigation prior to construction, which could be a timely and expensive process.Adding a stop sign at the intersection of Fragaria and Banner might not solve the problem, either.Stroup distributed a questionnaire last year asking people which they were more likely to do: speed or run a stop sign. She said all the respondents said they were more likely to speed. She asked Public Works about putting in a stop sign at the intersection of Fragaria and Banner, but they declined.Sometimes, signing doesn't help because the geometrics of the road determines the behavior, Shank said. Signs are very ineffective if you try to use them as a deterrent.In other words, if people are driving to Banner Road to jump the plateau at several miles per hour over the speed limit, a stop sign likely wouldn't influence their decision. The reason the jump is there is the wild grades that are there, Shank said.Bear said installing a stop sign could pose a problem for motorists who would have to stop heading down the steep grade, particularly in the winter.But Public Works did reduce the speed limit from 40 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour.The topographical survey crew has collected data on the northern slope of the road and are currently surveying the southern slope. Shank said he expects to have the rest of the information by Jan. 2001. Then we can start looking at design, he said. "