The intersection of 37th Street and Lief Erikson Drive has "always been a bit chancy," said Astoria City Engineer Mike Caccavano.
But now, it may be the most lethal intersection in town, said 37th Street resident Robert Oesterling.
Tightly lined with large trucks and other vehicles that frequented Farrell's Burger Basket, residents entering Lief Erikson Drive from 37th Street are used to a measure of guesswork when making a left turn. Now with the Ferrell's building expanding closer to the edge of Marine Drive to make way for a new restaurant, many residents say a bad situation has gotten much worse.
"It's clearly a danger to the public," Oesterling said. Now the space between the building and the parked cars has closed so tightly, guesswork is the only tool drivers have - unless one wants to pull 10 feet out into Marine Drive, he said.
About two weeks ago, Geno's Hometown Pizza Company began its transition from downtown to its new home in the former Burger Basket on the east edge of Astoria. But before it could move, owner Jason Thiel wanted to renovate and expand the Lief Erikson site to accommodate more seating and expanded service.
When a new wall took shape and merging onto Lief Erikson got harder, residents raised a ruckus. Some felt Thiel's expansion violated zoning or line-of-sight rules that protect motorists' right to see what's coming.
Not so, said Caccavano. Zoned for commercial use, Thiel can build up to his property line, he said. Though it's tough to see traffic to the west, the building does not break line-of-sight rules, he added.
The Oregon Department of Transportation, which oversees Lief Erikson, requested that the city endorse a 200-foot no parking zone in front of the restaurant to clear the westward view.
"We haven't signed it yet, but we plan to," said Caccavano.
Thiel said losing the parking spots will hurt business, but he is aware traffic safety could use some improvements in the area.
"I do agree vision is increased five-fold by not having parking there," he said, but he wonders if restricting it to 50 feet might be a compromise for both his business and residents.
"To lose all those spots will definitely be a negative for business," he said.
Oesterling welcomes the parking restriction and said he doesn't understand why the city hasn't approved it sooner - before the building expansion began.
Until red paint coats the curb, Oesterling said he's put at risk every time he embarks on a car trip.
"I can't see 'til I'm 10 feet out into the road," he said. "I'm breaking the law, but I have no choice."
Should an accident happen when he pokes the nose of his car out into Lief Erikson, Oesterling said he'll most likely be the liable party because he would be violating an eastbound driver's right-of-way.
"If I get smacked by a truck, it's my fault," he said. Oesterling vows to take on the city if such an accident were to occur. "If I'm smacked, I'll sue the city."
One area resident believes organizing the intersection better could make the area safer.
"I think a traffic light would be a good move," said Rick Murray, who lives above his coffee shop, Astoria Coffee Company, on 37th Street.
But a light directing traffic at the intersection is unlikely, said Caccavano. "If there had been a series of accidents" a traffic light might be required, he said.
Although many residents are concerned about safety at the intersection, Caccavano said the intersection has seen few dangerous mishaps.
In a 10-year accident history, the intersection didn't rank high compared to other sites in Astoria, he said. "It wasn't one of the top ones."
The volume of traffic using 37th is not high enough to meet state requirements for a light. "Right now, there's not enough traffic on 37th to warrant a light," he said.