NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Another crash closes Aurora Bridge in Seattle: Time to put safety first and improve SR 99

Well, it’s hap­pened again:

A mul­ti­ple vehi­cle crash Sun­day morn­ing that closed all lanes on Auro­ra Bridge in Seat­tle was the sec­ond crash on the bridge in a week.

Crews were called to the scene around 6:30 AM Sun­day to an acci­dent involv­ing three vehicles.

Police say no one was seri­ous­ly injured in the collision.

The caus­ing dri­ver told offi­cers he fell asleep, police said.

Mirac­u­lous­ly, no one was killed in this inci­dent, or even seri­ous­ly injured. We pre­sume that the occu­pants of the vehi­cles involved were wear­ing seat belts and that the air bags deployed. The Seat­tle Times report­ed the head-on col­li­sion was caused by the drowsy dri­ver’s vehi­cle cross­ing over onto oncom­ing traf­fic:

[Seat­tle police spokes­woman Lau­ren Lovan­hill] said the north­bound vehi­cle on the bridge crossed over the cen­ter line and col­lid­ed with one trav­el­ing south­bound. The dri­ver told police inves­ti­gat­ing the acci­dent that he fell asleep. She said both cars were new­er mod­els and the front ends crum­pled, absorb­ing the impacts of the crash.

I don’t use the Auro­ra Avenue Bridge on a reg­u­lar basis. But the times I have dri­ven it, I’ve always felt uncom­fort­able doing so. In the bridge’s cur­rent con­fig­u­ra­tion, six lanes for vehi­cle traf­fic are crammed onto the deck, and there is no medi­an or cable in the mid­dle. Some vehi­cles are too wide to safe­ly fit into the nar­row lanes.

Ten years ago, when this orga­ni­za­tion was cam­paign­ing for the defeat of John Carl­son and Kir­by Wilbur’s I‑912, our cam­paign mantra was “Safe­ty First”. The 2005 Trans­porta­tion Pack­age passed by the Leg­is­la­ture includ­ed fund­ing for a long list of projects to improve high­way safe­ty in every region of the state.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Auro­ra Avenue Bridge was not among the facil­i­ties des­ig­nat­ed to receive safe­ty improve­ments in that pack­age. Nor is it slat­ed to receive fund­ing from this year’s statewide trans­porta­tion pack­age or the Let’s Move Seat­tle levy.

This week’s crash­es have demon­strat­ed we just can’t afford to post­pone recon­fig­ur­ing the Auro­ra Avenue Bridge any longer. The bridge needs a safe­ty medi­an in the mid­dle, giv­en that it car­ries a state high­way with traf­fic mov­ing at high­er speeds, as opposed to a typ­i­cal street. In addi­tion, the high­way should prob­a­bly be reduced from six lanes to four. That would leave room for the medi­an and allow the remain­ing lanes to be widened to a stan­dard width.

This work won’t come cheap. But it should be under­tak­en as soon as can be arranged, to improve the safe­ty of every­one using the bridge. As we said dur­ing the NO on I‑912 cam­paign ten years ago, we sim­ply must put safe­ty first.

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One Comment

  1. Not that I dis­agree, but I think the pri­ma­ry ques­tion after Thurs­day’s hor­ri­ble acci­dent is whether it is safe to allow “ride the Duck” to oper­ate in the area.

    # by Mike Barer :: September 27th, 2015 at 9:04 PM
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