Car crashes off roundabout through fence in front yard

City's most talked-about traffic circle back in the conversation

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

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photoJerry Sutherland stands next to the wreckage of his fence. A car sped through the roundabout at N.E. 32nd Circle on Thursday night and damaged a concrete-moored metal post and fence at his home. Sutherland said people are driving too fast and not following the signs at the new roundabout, and he's worried about his safety.

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photoPart of a bumper and some other car wreckage remained in Jerry Sutherland's front yard Friday after a car sped through the roundabout at N.E. 32nd Circle and crashed into his fence. Police searched the area but didn't locate the car or driver.

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photoThe corner of Jerry Sutherland's home is precariously close to the curb of the roundabout at N.E. 32nd Circle. On Thursday night a car hopped the curb and damaged a concrete barrier and wooden fence at his home before the driver sped away. Sutherland said people are driving too fast and not following the signs at the new roundabout, and he's worried about his safety.

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photoA concrete barrier and metal post were uprooted when a car hopped the curb in front of Jerry Sutherland's home next to the roundabout at N.E. 32nd Circle.

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Problems continue to circulate at the roundabout on Northeast 32nd Circle in Vancouver's Parkside Neighborhood.

At about 11:30 p.m. Thursday night, a silver car sped through the roundabout, crashed through a concrete-anchored metal post and took out a wooden fence in Jerry Sutherland's front yard.

The car then sped away, leaving part of its bumper behind.

"It was a hit-and-run," Sutherland said. "This traffic circle, what it looks like to me is they made us vulnerable to being crashed into."

The roundabout is one of three in the city of Vancouver's Northeast 137th/138th Avenue Improvement Project. It is by far the most complained-about.

There were no witnesses to the accident, but several residents heard the impact and then saw a silver vehicle leaving south on 137th Avenue, said Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp.

Dan Swensen, a design and construction engineering manager at Vancouver Public Works, said the issue is one for the police and not the department.

"This was an accident," Swensen said. "It's not related to construction. We'll let the police investigate and they'll determine the cause."

Sutherland, who has lived in his home since 2001, said the road was much farther away from his house before the project began. Now, the circle brings traffic to within about 15 feet of its walls. And the set of metal posts the city installed to protect the home don't make him feel particularly safe, he said.

"We feel really vulnerable right here," Sutherland said. "It's too close to the road. People speed all the time. I've seen them go 50 miles an hour. They jump the curbs. Not too long ago, a pickup truck got stuck in the center and the driver was arrested for drunk driving."

People also don't seem to yield to traffic in the roundabout; rather, they blast through and hit the curbs way too fast, he said.

Across the street from Sutherland, also next to the roundabout, Kathy Gill said she constantly worries about her children walking near the front of her house.

"My kids, they have to walk to school every day, and I won't let them walk alone," she said of her 12-year-old and 7-year-old.

"And I have a grandbaby coming, and I don't know what I'm going to do then."

Her 19-year-old is about to give birth to Gill's first grandchild, and she doesn't want to think about what might happen if a toddler got out into her front yard, she said.

The lights around the roundabout also blast into her home at night, making it difficult to sleep, she said.

"It's kind of annoying; there's what, six lights right there?" Gill said, making a quick tally.

Looking over at the wreckage in Sutherland's yard, she shook her head.

"Oh, my gosh," Gill said. "I can't believe that."

Before the roundabout went in, the dead-end streets on either side of the intersection were much more quiet, she added.

"It's sad, because we live in a cul-de-sac, and those are supposed to be safer," Gill said. "But there's no way I'd let my kids out front. It's too dangerous."


Columbian reporter Emily Gillespie contributed to this story.