Fixing an 'accident hot spot'; changes proposes to Aurora Bridge and Raye Street turnoff

Speaking at a meeting of the Queen Anne Community Council's Transportation Committee last week, Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) project manager Natasha Sowers said the section of State Route 99 from North 50th Street to the Battery Street Tunnel is a "high accident corridor."
That information is part of a SR-99 North Corridor Study the DOT is performing with the aim of improving safety and traffic flow on Aurora Avenue North, as SR-99 is also known.
One glaring problem for the Queen Anne neighborhood is the southbound turnoff from the bridge onto Raye Street, a 90-degree intersection that Sowers described as "an accident hot spot."
Rich Meredith, a staffer from the city of Seattle Department of Transportation, said a proposal has been made to eliminate that turnoff. The Seattle Department of Transportation is involved because, while the state DOT owns SR-99, the city agency is responsible for traffic operations and improvements, Sowers explained.
Access to the north slope of Queen Anne Hill would still be maintained, Meredith said. That would be done, he explained, by routing traffic to a right turn off Aurora onto Dexter Way, which loops to the east, passing under the highway to reach Dexter Avenue North.
Motorists would then travel north on Dexter, take a left onto Sixth Avenue North near the Canlis Restaurant and from there take the Queen Anne Drive underpass.
"What we figure is it would add four and a half minutes," Meredith said of the extra time needed to make the proposed detour. The seven-way intersection just to the west of the southbound turnoff from the bridge would also be reconfigured, he said.
Motorists would still be able to turn south onto Aurora from Raye Street, and the western edge of Aurora would be widened so that motorists could safely merge with traffic coming off the bridge, he said.
Meredith cautioned that the proposal is only preliminary.
"There hasn't been an detailed analysis done on it yet," he said.
Also preliminary, is a proposal that would add a median barrier on the Aurora Bridge. That would be done by using new composite materials for the bridge surface and by eliminating the sidewalks on either side of the bridge to obtain the necessary room, Meredith said.
However, the sidewalks across the bridge would be replaced by suspended walkways under the bridge on both sides, he said.
"There are issues with security and access, but as a long-term solution, this is probably the most feasible."
Meredith said the fix would cost an estimated $20 million, and he added that no funding source has been identified for the project.
Still, the proposal to add a median barrier to the bridge was welcome news to community council member Mike Warren. His son was killed in a traffic accident on the bridge a few years ago.
It was an accident that could have been prevented if a median barrier had been on the bridge, but Warren said he was told at the time that adding a barrier was just not possible.
"Thank you for the work," he said to Sowers and Meredith.
Photo by Russ Zabel
A proposal has been made to eliminate this souuthbound turnoff on Aurora Avenue North.
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