Speed limits on Aurora Avenue North, Lake City Way and other state roads running through Seattle will be lowered by 5 mph, city and state transportation departments said Monday.
Crews began installing 150 new – and in some cases larger – signs along state highways on Sunday, bringing the top speed drivers can travel in the city to 40 mph, with the exception of Interstate 5 , Interstate 90 and Highway 99 within the city tunnel. New signage on Aurora is expected in mid-April.
The updated speed limits follow an announcement by Mayor Jenny Durkan in 2019 that her administration would reduce the speed on all city traffic arteries to 40 km / h.
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As of this month, the crews have installed approximately 2,500 signs on approximately 415 miles of roads – nearly 90% of the main roads in Seattle – and hit the top speed of 40 km / h.
However, because the state shares control with Seattle over Aurora, Lake City Way, Sand Point Way, Northeast 145th Street, East Marginal Way, and West Marginal Way, Durkan’s 2019 ruling did not immediately apply to those streets.
It took some time for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to “go through the processes” with the state, said SDOT spokesman Ethan Bergerson.
Last week, the State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) approved Seattle’s request to slow down portions of state routes that run along the streets in the city.
“We worked very closely with the city of Seattle,” said WSDOT spokesman Bart Treece. “Together we are committed to finding new and creative ways to improve safety and reduce the number of serious injuries and deaths because one is too many to zero.”
The state roads could experience further reductions. “We’ll continue to evaluate anything over 30 mph,” Bergerson said, but he couldn’t give a specific schedule.
Even if the coronavirus pandemic has reduced commuting and traffic levels at historic lows, Seattle recorded the second highest number of people killed in traffic-related accidents in a decade last year.
State roads that look like city streets but are designed for more traffic often have a disproportionate share of collisions.
In 2019, there were 14 accidents along the Aurora that resulted in serious injury or death, and according to SDOT, nine more occurred last year. There were three serious or fatal accidents on the Lake City Way in 2019 and three more in 2020.
“The loss of life – often our most vulnerable travelers – from accidents and collisions on our roads is unacceptable,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement on Monday. “Seattle has been a national leader in reducing speed limits in our city. We are proud to partner with WSDOT to introduce speed reductions on state routes in Seattle so that all travelers can get where they need to go safely.”
According to SDOT, the simple changes can make a difference.
In an SDOT study of five neighborhoods in north Seattle, data showed that lowering speed limits and increasing the number and frequency of speed limit signs – without additional technology, training, or enforcement – resulted in lower speeds and fewer crashes.
The study, which was published last summer, compared data from five years between 2013 and 2018 with data from one year between 2018 and 2019. In places with new speed limit signs of 40 km / h every quarter mile, accidents decreased by 22% Study found.
Still, Bergerson said these lower speeds are “only part of the picture”.
For example, SDOT is also working with WSDOT to fix the Lake City Way and add other security improvements.
New sidewalks and curb ramps have been installed on Northeast 135th and Northeast 137th streets. Sidewalks and curb ramps are also being built on Northeast 82nd and Northeast 95th Streets.
SDOT also expects to receive a grant from the state this year that would allow the agency to make major design changes along Aurora. The $ 2 million would fund community engagement, right-of-way planning, traffic analysis, and design.
The department will run awareness campaigns to alert drivers to the new speed limits, but has not requested additional police enforcement.