2011’s Worst Intersection in Seattle… isn’t an intersection at all. At its cross streets that don’t actually cross – John, Thomas, Harrison, and Republican – Aurora presents a nearly half-mile long barrier to pedestrian movement. Aurora Ave is a human-made scar through Seattle that obstructs the flow of people – nowhere worse than between the dense Lower Queen Anne / South Lake Union areas.
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The street grid will eventually be reconnected, but not until the completion of the Alaskan Way Deep Bore Tunnel boondoggle in 2015 or 2016. Councilmember Tim Burgess earlier requested that WSDOT open crossings at the completion of the Mercer Corridor Project in 2014.
Regardless of when these intersections are restored, it’s too long to wait. In the three year period between April of 2005 and March of 2008, five pedestrians were struck within the 0.4 mile length of Aurora between Denny and Mercer – this is more than were struck in the 4 miles immediately to the north between Mercer and Green Lake.
Opening these crossings to people on foot would make it significantly easier to access Seattle Center and for workers on either side to access more lunch and happy hour options. The closed intersections mean that many trips take an extra 10 minutes of walking, which is inconvenient enough to discourage people from walking at all.
Reopening the intersections could improve safety for vehicles as well. There were 72 collisions on Aurora from Thomas to Republican during the time period referenced above. Vehicles here move 40-60 miles per hour, so providing signalized intersections would protect motorists as they turn onto Aurora.
I’m not optimistic that we’ll see changes anytime soon. This section of Aurora carries roughly 60,000 vehicles daily, and signals would delay these vehicles. Highway 99 is under the jurisdiction of WSDOT, an organization whose goal for decades has been to move more cars, and adding a signal here – where Aurora is essentially a freeway – would go against their deeply-ingrained traffic engineering standards. 60,000 drivers could generate a lot of complaints, sadly more than a few concerned pedestrians can.