- Associated Press - Sunday, September 27, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - State lawmakers are asking transportation officials how to improve safety on Seattle’s Aurora Bridge, where a crash between an amphibious Ride the Ducks vehicle and a charter bus Thursday killed five people and injured dozens.

Democratic Rep. Reuven Carlyle said he’s drafting a letter from lawmakers calling on the city and state transportation departments to analyze options for making the bridge safer, The Seattle Times reported (https://is.gd/6H4zC5 ). The bridge has three lanes in each direction with no median, and it’s narrower than any other six-lane highway bridge in the state.

“Obviously we’re at the point where we need to look at the bridge,” State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said.

About 45 students and staff from North Seattle College were traveling Thursday to the city’s iconic Pike Place Market and Safeco Field for orientation events when the duck boat suddenly swerved into their oncoming charter bus, witnesses said. Four students died at the scene, and a fifth - identified as a 20-year-old woman - died Sunday, Harborview Medical Center said. More than 50 people were taken to hospitals. Thirteen remained at Harborview Medical Center on Sunday, with four in intensive care in serious condition.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said the left front axle of the duck boat was sheared off, but they don’t know if it was damaged before the collision.

In 2003 the state DOT recommended moving the bridge’s sidewalks below the road deck, to allow wider car lanes and a 2-foot-wide median barrier, at a cost of $29?million. Former Seattle Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson said she believes the reason the work was never done was because of the cost.

Carlyle mentioned several possible safety improvements for the bridge, including reducing the 40 mph speed limit, installing signs to remind people to drive more slowly, reducing the bridge from six lanes to four to provide for more room per lane, installing a median barrier or implementing the full 2003 recommendation.

The rate of crashes on the bridge is only about that on the rest of Aurora Avenue North, which is to be expected, as other stretches have more intersections, traffic lights, turning vehicles and pedestrians.

Before Thursday, there had been 202 collisions on the Aurora Bridge, about six-tenths of a mile, since the start of 2001. They caused 124 injuries, including as many as 11 serious injuries. Twenty-one crashes involved vehicles crossing the centerline.

For the entire roadway from South Lake Union to the north city limit, there were 5,545 crashes in the same period, causing 3,538 injuries and at least 22 deaths.

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Information from: The Seattle Times, https://www.seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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