Luke and Gayle Burns died shortly after 8 that night when their car spun out in the icy intersection and was broadsided by a pickup truck. The Grand Haven couple were headed to their home in The Village Green community from a gathering in Robinson Township, according to their son, Lewis Burns III.
Shea Lianne Carson posted online Monday that “Mercury and Robbins Road is an awful intersection. Last night’s accident could have been avoided if there was some sort of traction.”
Jenny Keeler said she’s seen a lot of crashes at the Grand Haven Township intersection in the eight years she’s lived in a nearby duplex.
“We were watching a movie (Saturday night) when, all of a sudden, we heard this really big crunch,” she said. “I grabbed my stuff and I went running out there.”
Keeler said she almost fell because the road was "glare ice." She said things were "pretty grim" when she got to the scene.
“I always go out to help," Keeler said. "But, after seeing them, I don’t know if I can do it anymore.”
Keeler said the township recently widened the road, but she thinks a traffic light is needed at the intersection.
“I’ve been out there a couple of times where people went right through the stop sign and crashed,” she said.
Although some extra salt and sand at the intersection might have stopped Saturday's fatal crash, Keeler said the majority of the collisions in the area are from motorists not paying attention.
Keeler's neighbor, 16-year-old Carlee Clover, said she’s seen enough crashes at the intersection and along Mercury Drive that it’s scared her.
“When it’s like this, I don’t go out,” Clover gestured at the blowing snow obliterating the intersection outside her window. “If I have to go to school, I drive really slow so I can see.”
Clover said she’s "still in shock" after running to the scene Saturday night to try to help the crash victims.
“Even though I don’t know them, it still upsets me,” she said.
After every crash at the intersection, Clover and her mother, Darcey Southwell, talk about what could be done to make the intersection safer.
“A traffic light, a four-way stop, something,” Southwell said. “It’s like the worse intersection ever. People roll through that Robbins Road stop sign into the path of people who are going 45-50 mph on Mercury Drive.”
Southwell said she and a neighbor helped save a man in a crash there eight years ago.
“Even our pizza delivery man got hit,” she said.
Keeping it clear
Ottawa County Road Commission Operations Superintendent Ryan Kemppainen said the seemingly constant winter onslaught is more than his crews can keep up with, considering their staffing and funding levels.
Up to 64 trucks are on county roads during the day.
“We’ve been going from 5 a.m. until 5 at night on the weekend,” Kemppainen said. “The rest of it is taken care of by our afternoon and night shift. That’s eight guys for the whole county.”
Kemppainen said the drivers have routes and may cover an intersection such as Robbins and Mercury three times during the day.
“Once you hit 5:30, most of your concentration is on state highways and primary roads – if we can get to them,” he said.
Kemppainen said he did a lot of driving on Saturday, and the snow combined with the wind covered up a lot of areas Road Commission trucks hit with sand.
Mercury Drive and Robbins Road are considered primary roads in the township. Mercury is one of the commission's top priorities, after state highways, because it is a multi-lane road, Kemppainen said. Robbins would be a "priority three" on the list, followed by local paved roads, subdivision streets, local gravel roads, and dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs.
Kemppainen said they are also having problems keeping roads clear because of people abandoning their stuck vehicles at the end of driveways and in the roadway.
The February edition of the Road Commission newsletter explains road maintenance priorities and costs. CLICK HERE to see the newsletter.
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