The recent fatal collision on Seattle’s Aurora Bridge has reawakened concern over safety of the crossing. One local legislator says that solutions to the issue are expensive, but there are a few quick fixes that can be done.
“The whole thing is a tragedy. We all know it,” said State Representative Reuvan Carlyle. “The reason this has resonated with the public so much is that so many of us, tens of thousands, drive that [bridge] every day. You know those lanes are squeezed. It’s a tight fit and people are glancing up at the view and other things.”
Carlyle represents the state’s 36th legislative district that encompasses Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood at one end of the Aurora Bridge. He told Seattle’s Morning News on KIRO Radio that safety issues with the Aurora Bridge are well known.
In 2003, the state conducted a study of the Aurora corridor, which included the bridge. That study concluded that the lanes on the bridge were too thin — 9.5 feet; most freeways have 12-foot wide lanes, and most of Aurora Avenue’s are 10 feet wide. The study called Aurora Avenue the “third worst high-accident corridor in the state.”
The study proposed that the lanes be widened to 11.5 feet and a median barrier be installed. Sidewalks and bike lanes would be moved to a new suspended level underneath the bridge deck.
“The 2003 recommendations were very extensive in terms of taking the two sidewalks and installing the bridge of pedestrian and bike ways underneath the bridge itself. That was a $29 million proposal and it just didn’t go anywhere, as you can imagine it was on the expensive side for taxpayers,” Carlyle said, further noting that the job would be more expensive today.
There is no indication that any improvements to the bridge are coming any time soon. Carlyle, however, said that there are some “modest” steps that could be taken in the meantime, starting with pressuring state and local authorities to address the issue.
“A modest step might be just slowing down traffic, some lane adjustments, some new signage leading up to bridge on both sides,” he said. “And you might have the more substantive installation of a median. All of those have to be looked at in a more practically, affordable way.”
Another “modest” solution, Carlyle said, is re-configuring bridge from six lanes to four.
So far, there are no indications that the bridge itself played a role in the fatal accident involving a ‘Duck.’ Investigations into the accident and the Ride the Ducks company continue.
Carlyle said he believes that the tour company’s large amphibious vehicles can be safe on Seattle’s roads, but a look into when and where they travel is needed.
“I do think there is room for them,” Carlyle said. “I think they can be safe. I just don’t know if it can be on the bridge. We need to look at different corridors that they travel.”