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Deadly Highway 17 Laurel Curve to Get Temporary Concrete Barrier

Caltrans plans to install median concrete protector on Thursday, work may take a couple of days to complete.

Caltrans officials announced today they will begin installing a temporary concrete median barrier along the deadly section of the roadway this Thursday.

Caltrans traffic safety officials will then evaluate the effectiveness of the barrier in reducing accidents and further study other safety improvements at what is commonly called Laurel Curve, a windy and dangerous section of the highway that's often driven by motorists beyond its 55 mph limit.

The Laurel Road exit near the scene of the deadly crash that occurred Friday is located south of Scotts Valley and about 12 miles south of Los Gatos' main entrance to the freeway.

In addition, Caltrans officials said they plan to install experimental high-friction pavement treatment to the highway's surface in that location along with warning signs at Laurel Curve.

The sharp curve is considered the bloodiest of the two-lane treacherous highway. According to CHP data, the prevalence of crashes in this section, which takes motorist from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz, is one of the highest.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Susan Cruz asked for motorists to drive carefully along the Highway 17 corridor, especially during the remaining weeks of the wet weather season.

Friday's crash was reported at 10:43 a.m., north of Scotts Valley.

The victim, identified as 57-year-old Gerard Wener, of Brentwood, was driving south in a gray 2005 Nissan Altima when he somehow lost control and crossed into northbound traffic, according to the CHP.

The Nissan struck the side of a Chevrolet Suburban and spun around, then hit the front of a Toyota 4Runner, CHP officials said.

The 4Runner then collided with the side of an Acura Integra.

Wener was pronounced dead at the scene, and two adults and a 5-year-old in the 4Runner were injured and were taken to Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz.

The occupants of the Chevrolet and the Acura were not injured.

The crash shut down northbound Highway 17 and one southbound lane for about three hours.

The CHP is still investigating what caused Wener to lose control but reminded motorists to slow down in inclement weather.

—Bay City News Service contributed to this report

Jesse Ducker March 21, 2012 at 03:01 AM
It's certainly needed. Always thought that was a rough spot of road. Hopefully they can make it work so it's a permanent solution.
Robert Menkemeller March 21, 2012 at 03:20 AM
I agree Jesse, putting up a barrier is surely better than crashing into another car coming the opposite way. Also, I would think it could possibly cause the driver to bounce off, wake up and regain control if possible, minimizing damage. I'm no accident expert though.
Jane Darwin March 21, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Having driven Highway 17 for many years I know the concrete barriers have been a help. Would be even better to get people to slow down and obey the speed limit. But since that is hard to get people to do at least the barrier will help keep people on their side of the road, mostly. I do remember the red corvette that hopped the barrier years ago.
Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz March 21, 2012 at 03:57 AM
I think that we can do all that we can do for the better good. And though some will continue to be careless. It WILL COME AROUND!
Dan Orloff March 21, 2012 at 04:19 AM
A concrete way to save lives. It should not have taken so many years and lives.

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