Almost all of Seattle’s streets are city-owned and operated. Yet one third of the people who die while walking in our city are killed on federal and state highways, Walking in Seattle reports:
Of the 104 pedestrians that were killed in Seattle during that period, 31 were killed on state or federal highways. While these roadways only cover a small portion of the city, nearly one third of Seattle’s pedestrian fatalities occured there.
By far the deadliest roadway in the city is I-5, with 17 fatalities during the studied period. While most people in their right mind would not consider trying to walk along or across I-5, the freeway cuts a deep path through the city and offers pedestrians no way across for long stretches.
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SR-99 / Aurora is the worst state highway in the city, with 7 pedestrian deaths to its name. Other deadly roadways include SR-519 and Lake City Way / SR-522.
While the city of Seattle is responsible for these state highways, funding is not available to re-build these streets as complete streets.
In some ways, it makes sense that the most deadly streets would be the busiest ones. But it’s also shocking to realize that just a couple roads claim such a disproportionate number of lives (though it should be noted that it’s not clear and may never be clear if some of the deaths were suicides, as some of the I-5 ones likely were).
Federal and state highways through the city pose a challenge to the cause of road safety in many ways. Not only are these roads the busiest, but any changes have to go through a whole other government agency. And as we all know, it’s hard enough to get one government to agree on a change, let alone two or three.
But traffic safety on these roads has been a problem for a long time, and the state and federal government needs to make some serious changes to encourage safer roads for people on foot.
Whenever I think of Aurora traffic deaths, I can’t get this 1940 image out my head. This road has been killing people for a long time: