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Aurora Ave traffic fatality is 10th in less than two years

Wide highway with concrete barrier in the middle
Aurora Ave N in Queen Anne

Last night, 5 days after SDOT announced that it had installed two speed-display signs on either side of the Aurora bridge, a pedestrian was hit and killed on the Queen Anne side of Aurora Avenue N by someone driving. The Seattle Times reports that as of last night SPD did not have any information to provide about the events that proceeded the crash. We know the crash happened on the west side of Aurora Ave in the 2400 block and that the victim has been described as a 41-year old man whose identity is not yet known. The driver reportedly left the scene.

This marks the 10th traffic fatality on Seattle’s portion of Aurora Ave N since last January. Nine of those ten fatalities were people walking on Aurora. Many more people have been seriously injured on the street in that timeframe. Aurora Ave and Rainier Ave frequently change places as the top street for traffic fatalities in the city of Seattle.

Last year, when the city announced that it was lowering the speed limit on the vast majority of arterial streets to 25 mph, it noted that state routes like Aurora would not be included in that but that also said that “the City will also partner with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to reduce speeds on state highways within city limits, including Aurora Ave N on State Route 99 and Lake City Way on State Route 522”. The speed limit remains 40 mph on Aurora Ave all the way from the SR-99 tunnel to Green Lake, the longest stretch in the city with a speed limit that high.

20 mph speed, 9 out of 10 pedestrians survive. 30 mph, 5 out of 10 survive. 40 mph, 1 out of 10.
40 mph+ speeds substantially reduces the likelihood that a pedestrian will survive a crash

WSDOT recently spent $19 million repaving the entirety of Aurora Ave from Roy Street to the city line, and despite both agencies having a shared goal of reducing fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030, minimal safety improvements were completed with that repaving. According to state law, SDOT is responsible for the traffic operations on the street, though the state would need to approve a change to the speed limit. Why hasn’t it happened yet?

We recently reported that the state 2021-2023 transportation budget will likely include money to complete a $2 million planning study for Aurora, which would not include any money for actual roadway changes. The state has already completed many studies encompassing portions of this dangerous route, what is needed now is action.

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14 responses to “Aurora Ave traffic fatality is 10th in less than two years”

  1. The real problem is not so much the speed limit as the speed people drive. Since it’s easy to go fast, people do. It’s typical for traffic to go 10mph over the limit, but I see many gong 55 or 60. Sometimes at night, i hear people drag racing (I’m 2 blocks off aurora). I have no way to know how fast they are going but it sounds like in excess of 100mph.

    The city lowered the speed limit on 15th NW and it’s rare to see anyone go slower then they used to. I don’t think lowering the speed limit would have much effect.

    Speed cameras (if they were legal) could help as well as sporadic sting operations.

  2. asdf2

    At least the Aurora bridge has the problem of trying to squeeze in three lanes in the space of two. Fewer, wider lanes, with shoulders and a center barrier is safer than having everybody zoom by in three narrow lanes (with buses straddling the lane boundaries, anyway).

    1. RossB

      I think you have it backwards. People drive faster on wider lanes. Narrow lanes are likely to have the occasional scratch, as people bump into each other, but drivers will at least slow down.

      1. asdf2

        In this case, the lanes are so narrow that large vehicles, like buses, can’t even fit in one lane and have to straddle two. There is also no shoulder, putting people on the sidewalk right in the path of somebody’s mirror. The Ride the Duck crash could have never happened had the city put in a center barrier.

        I’m not sure the narrowed lanes has much value in slowing traffic because the lanes are wider everywhere else, except the bridge.

        Reducing the number of lanes on the bridge leaves room for proper lane width and shoulders, plus a center barrier.

  3. Bb

    What I have seen here are countless people running across. There are few safe places to cross, and humans are lazy so the shortest path is often chosen. This is especially true near Canlis.

    1. RossB

      In that area, there are a couple of underpasses, but they are spread out — one at Raye (close to Canlis) and at Lynn. There are few places worth going to on the west side of the street. There is the hotel, and there are bus stops. A pair of bus stops are by Dexter, by the underpass. The other bus stops aren’t. This means that it is a longer walk for people taking a southbound bus to any of the apartments on the east side (https://goo.gl/maps/W97D5JMZ9C8w8cd4A). They could push the west side bus stop further north, to just after Raye. That would give people a shorter walk to the bus stop, and discourage folks from running across.

      That would leave the motel, but unless the city invested a lot of money (or was willing to stop traffic on that part of Aurora) there is no easy way to get to the other side of the street from there.

      1. Gary Yngve

        The underpass by Canlis isn’t ADA (stairs), and there may be people camping there. It’s really not a viable crossing point. Even the ped overpasses at Highland (useful also for the E-line bus stop) and N 41st St are stairs only.

  4. SteveD

    Aurora needs signals timed for 30mph with crosswalks and timed for a slow pedestrian to get all the way across the road. 24/7 timed signals with speed-activated radar triggers to prevent 60mph pass throughs. And speed cameras.

  5. Eric

    I’ve seen people crossing Aurora where it’s divided by the Jersey barriers several times. Maybe putting something on top of the barriers to make them too high to climb over would prevent that, as that’s very dangerous.

    1. RachaelL

      I think you’re missing the point. There’s hardly anywhere TO cross in this part of Aurora. The only means of crossing through much of this section of Aurora are underpasses that involve stairs and tunnels. Stairs take more time, even if you can do them (and even a person that can walk fine on a flat or a ramp may not be able to comfortably take stairs but might be able to walk across lanes and scoot over a barrier). Stairs and tunnels are also incredibly unsafe feeling for many, especially women. My experience of Aurora underpasses were eerie and those events were during the daytime. I avoid them as much as possible since (I don’t live there so it’s only if I’m meeting friends that I do). I’d probably do a lot to avoid using one at night alone (especially as I’m told they are also incredibly poorly lit).

      If we have a roadway that is designed for cars to go very fast that divides up neighborhoods and with few pedestrian crossing points that aren’t usable or comfortable for many, the inevitable result will be people doing “dangerous” things because those are the only choices available. The problem isn’t people crossing Aurora in dangerous ways. The problem is a government that continues to maintain this dangerously designed street without changes.

  6. Gary Yngve

    Even where there are traffic lights and otherwise good ped/bike crossings, e.g., at N 67th St and N 77th St, it is a ridiculously long time to wait for the light to change.
    And then the various “on- / off- ramps” for Aurora are completely unsafe for cyclists or peds crossing at intersections, e.g., Bridge Way, W Green Lake Dr, Winona, etc.

  7. laheberlein

    The city of Oslo (about the same size as Seattle) recorded 0 cyclist fatalities in 2019. And 0 pedestrian fatalities. So it is not a matter of not knowing how to stop killing cyclists and pedestrians. We know how. It is a matter of not caring enough. Seattle’s transportation planners are continuing to kill us because our lives are less important to them than their other priorities.

  8. M.B.

    Sdot lines to blame the state regarding Aurora, but Shoreline has done a better job than Seattle. As others have said, the city doesn’t care about the injuries and fatalities and general quality of life problems on Aurora. It is really discouraging.

  9. Isis ola

    My name is isis ola the 41 yr old man who was hit is my fiancé he’s been in the hospital with injuries that did kill him but it’s a blessing he’s still with us. I need help bringing the story on the news can anyone help me , this person killed someone and left . Matthew Magnano is the most sweetest person you’ll ever meet very kind respectful has wonderful parents and two daughters. If there’s anything anyone can help me with please email [email protected] detective have or wont look for any leads there’s a witness who seen Seattle police pick up 50 100 dollar bills but detective says no money in evidence. Not one police officer has come to speak to us about what happened to Matthew . Does anyone know if there’s cameras around there?

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