CHOKEPOINTS

Reducing traffic fatalities one ‘stroad’ at a time

Jan 18, 2024, 8:00 AM | Updated: 10:07 am

stroad traffic fatalities...

Aurora Avenue on Jan. 17, 2024 (Photo from Chris Sullivan)

(Photo from Chris Sullivan)

It’s not quite a road, and it’s not quite a street. You drive them every day, and they are some of the most dangerous places in Washington. They are stroads.

These are places like Aurora Avenue or State Route 99, Pacific Avenue, or State Route 7 in Parkland.  They started out as roads connecting two locations, but over time, they filled in and became destinations themselves.

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“About 1,100 miles of the state highway system are what we call stroads,” Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Secretary Roger Millar told the legislature this week.  “They serve as a road connecting two places, and they also serve as a street providing people access.”

Millar said these stroads are some of the most dangerous places in the state.

“In these 1,100 miles of facilities that were responsible for, the fatal crash rate is double the statewide average,” Millar said.  “The serious injury crash rate is triple the statewide average.”

And it’s easy to see why. These stroads usually have higher speed limits designed for when they were built but don’t really reflect the uses of it today.

I have one of these in my neighborhood, 132nd Street South East in south Everett. It was built to connect Interstate 5 through the buffalo farm and other rural areas east of I-5 to connect you to State Route 9.

Now that the buffalo farm is gone, replaced by schools, new apartments, and retail businesses, there are long stretches without crosswalks. I see people walking or running across this road from the apartments on one side, across the five lanes of traffic, to the stores on the other.

It’s not ideal, and Millar told lawmakers it’s time for a change.

“What we need to do is challenge the desire for speed and the need for safety,” Millar said. “The desire for convenience and the need for safety.”

Washington is most likely going to set another record for fatalities in 2023, and we had nearly 800 deaths on our roads heading into December.  This comes after back-to-back years with around 750 deaths on our roads.

“We’re seeing increased speeding, reckless driving, impaired driving on roadways and in work zones, and it’s happening statewide,” Millar said. “It’s happening all around the country. We have to ask ourselves, is 750 plus deaths a year acceptable, or are we truly willing to do something different?”

This is why you’re seeing a push to ban free right turns on red lights and to lower the blood alcohol content for a DUI. This is why you’re seeing speed limits come down too.

Millar said it’s time to start redesigning these stroads with all users in mind to make sure that everyone gets home safely.

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Reducing traffic fatalities one ‘stroad’ at a time