Lending a Hand to Portland

On January 11, 2017, Portland was hit with a massive snowstorm, making national headlines. So we sent crews to help out the Portland Bureau of Transportation. It was hard work, but our crews say they’ll never forget the trip to help our friends to the south.

Our Maintenance Operations Division sent more than a dozen crew members and several pieces of equipment.


Over two days, our crews helped to clear ice and snow from roadways, as well as fallen trees, some of which landed on top of cars, throughout the entire city of Portland.

Our crew takes a break on the way home from Portland.

Our crew takes a break on the way home from Portland.

When our crews came back home to Seattle, they received this thank you letter from the City of Portland to the City of Seattle.

Portland Thank You letter

We are happy to have assisted the City of Portland and its residents and we look forward to our continued collaboration throughout all weather conditions.

Our crews prepare for wintry weather all year round. Check out our Winter Weather page to see our readiness plan, tips on preparing for cold weather, and the always useful winter weather map.

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Green Streets

SDOT engineers, planners, and paving crews are responsible for the 4,000 miles of roadway and 2,000 miles of sidewalk that keep our city moving. But who maintains the countless plants that keep our city green?

That’s SDOT’s gardeners and irrigation specialists.

A crew member works on a green median to keep the City welcoming and green.

A crew member works on a green median to keep the City welcoming and green.

Our team of gardeners, irrigation specialists, certified horticulturalists and arborists help create a more pleasant, welcoming, and positive environment for everyone walking, biking, busing, or driving in our city.

The crew works on a planter box.

The crew works on a planter box.

Every crew member is licensed by the WA Department of Agriculture and trained on principles of integrated pest management to minimize our use of pesticides. Additionally, everyone is trained in flagging and traffic diversion, and some are certified traffic control supervisors.

Together, they help keep our shrubs, turf, ornamental grass, perennials, annuals, and other plants healthy, happy, and looking good with more than 150 different irrigation systems.

City gardeners are responsible for the city's plants and small trees.

City gardeners are responsible for the city’s plants and small trees.

With more than 120 acres of green spaces across over 200 locations, including new additions like Mercer Ave median in South Lake Union or the entrances to the future waterfront tunnel, our gardeners and irrigation specialists work hard to make sure we stay the Emerald City.

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Move Seattle Trees: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You!

You may remember that back in July we told you that SDOT would be doing a large majority of our tree planting this fall. The darker mornings and rain on our windshields can only mean one thing: it’s time to plant some trees.


SDOT crews were in West Seattle last week in the 9000-9200 blocks of 13th Ave SW, 14th Ave SW, 15th Ave SW planting about 25 new trees in the neighborhood. Once in the ground and supported with stakes, trees are good for the entire winter. Our crews will visit the trees next spring and put bags at the base of the tree to make sure they stay well-hydrated throughout the summer.


Approved by voters in 2015, the 9-year Levy to Move Seattle also requires SDOT to replace every tree removed with two new trees. So far, SDOT has already planted 84 new trees like this one above – a dawn redwood. Residents can look forward to greener streetscapes and anyone traveling through Seattle will be able to breathe a little easier thanks to the many benefits our urban canopy provides.


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Healthier and Safer Street Trees

Starting this year and continuing through 2024, SDOT will significantly improve the health and safety of Seattle’s street trees.

Our Urban Forestry staff will have better information on the City’s street trees using a new street tree app and more staff dedicated to proactively prune and replace trees, thanks to increased funding from the Move Seattle Levy.


SDOT’s Tree Collection app

SDOT is responsible for more than 40,000 city street trees and oversees approximately 250,000 street trees maintained by adjacent property owners. Using our efficient street tree app and lots of help from volunteers and interns, SDOT is striving to update the inventory of all street trees in the City over the nine years of the Move Seattle Levy. This vital knowledge will help us make better decisions on managing our urban forest.

The addition of new urban forestry crew members will allow us to continue to respond to urgent needs and requests, while increasing our level of proactive maintenance.  Over the nine years of the Levy, we will prune every street tree—many of them more than once!


An Urban Forestry crew member taking care of a city street tree.

We will improve our ability to increase forest diversity, plant the right trees in the right place, where they provide the most benefit. We will even be able to track how we distribute our resources so the benefits of our street trees are more equitable throughout all Seattle neighborhoods.

All these improvements will increase the health of our trees, the safety of our streets and the shared benefits of the urban forest along Seattle’s streets.

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Planting Trees Across the Country

Last week we were excited to welcome Nikola Agatic, who rode into town after completing a cross-county bicycle trip with stops for tree planting along the way.


We joined community members to help him plant a tree in Railroad Park, which for trivia buffs was planted by producers from Sleepless in Seattle as a thank you to the Westlake neighborhood after filming.

Seattle was the perfect place to the end trek, as an Arbor Day Tree City USA for 30 years and one of the best cities in the country for biking.


Thanks for the tree Nikola! If you want to get a tree of your own to help keep our city green, Seattle’s Trees for Neighborhoods program is giving them this October and November. Enter the lottery drawing between July 18 and August 8, and you could win a FREE tree for your home or neighborhood.

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Our Valuable Urban Canopy

We love our trees in the Pacific Northwest, especially in Seattle. They add a pop of green in a city sometimes surrounded by gray. Besides being nice to look at, trees also filter carbon dioxide out of the air and produce oxygen. We can all agree that trees are valuable.


But just how much?

Using i-Tree, a program developed by the USDA Forest Service, SDOT’s Urban Forestry division is updating the dollar amount environmental benefits that our estimated 40,000 city maintained trees in the right-of-way provide. We will also be including the benefit calculations for privately maintained right-of-way trees, as they are added to our inventory when we update tree counts.

For example, our forestry crews recently updated our tree inventory in South Park at the beginning of 2016. Using the i-Tree software, annual net environmental benefits calculated before the inventory were at $48,230. After the inventory, they were calculated at $83,763.

The larger post-inventory value is the result of several factors: an accurate tree count that increased by over 350 trees, updated species documentation and the benefits they provide, and tree size updates to track environmental inputs and outputs.

i-Tree inventory analysis of SDOT trees in the South Park neighborhood

i-Tree inventory analysis of SDOT trees in the South Park neighborhood

Over the next several years, this type of inventory analysis is going to be taking place across the entire city.

And thanks to Seattle voters who approved the 9-year Levy to Move Seattle in the fall of 2015, SDOT was able to add a third tree crew to help maintain our City’s street trees and respond to customer service requests.

We will also be planting two trees for every one tree removed. Our gardeners expect to plant about 300 trees this year, mostly in the fall. We’ll be sure to check back in with them in a few months for an update.

If you want to get a tree of your own to help keep our city green, Seattle’s Trees for Neighborhoods program is giving them this October and November. Enter the lottery drawing between July 18 and August 8, and you could win a FREE tree for your home or neighborhood.

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Preserving a “Best In City” Scarlet Oak

SDOT’s Urban Forestry tree crew has begun work to preserve an enormous scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) in the Wedgwood neighborhood in north Seattle. This huge tree is one of a handful of trees in the right of way designated as a Heritage Tree.  The Heritage Tree Program is a partnership between the City and PlantAmnesty to recognize outstanding trees based upon the following characteristics:

Specimen: A tree of exceptional size, form, or rarity.
Historic: A tree recognized by virtue of its age, its association with a historic structure or district, or with a noted person or historic event.
Landmark: Trees that are landmarks of a community.
Collection: Trees in a notable grove, avenue, or other planting.

Not only is this scarlet oak a Heritage Tree but this specific tree is also classified as “Best in City” and was featured in an online article in Wedgwood in Seattle History.

Oak tree

The scarlet oak at 38th Ave NE and NE 77th St in north Seattle.

In April, SDOT was made aware that the trunk of this tree sustained a crack in it, likely during the windstorm in mid-March. SDOT decided to take this extraordinary approach to help demonstrate that preserving large trees is the most important management strategy to meeting our tree canopy goals.

Urban Forestry Manager Darren Morgan says this tree provides tremendous benefits to the community every year and is an icon in the neighborhood.  During the work planning process, several neighbors approached the SDOT team to share their thanks for the tree preservation efforts.

Crew with oak tree

SDOT Tree Crew Supervisor Joe Markovich oversaw installation.

SDOT Urban Forestry will be installing a cabling and bracing system including hard-to-source materials from Seattle City Light’s warehouse. Portions of the system are rated at 54,000 lbs. tensile strength in order to provide significant reduction in risk. SDOT is committed to performing an annual inspection of the cabling system and will make adjustments to the system and/or the tree as needed to ensure the system continues to provide the intended benefit.  SDOT estimates that the system could add 10 years or more to the life of this otherwise healthy and vigorous tree.

The mission of SDOT’S Urban Forestry division is to administer, maintain, protect, and expand the City’s urban landscape in street right-of-ways for Seattle residents and businesses so that economic, environmental, safety and aesthetic benefits are maximized. For more information about Urban Forestry, check out their webpage here.

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Improving Seattle One Street End at a Time

Seattle is surrounded by water – Lake Washington, Lake Union, Puget Sound, and other waterways – resulting in more than 200 miles of magnificent shoreline.


That much shoreline also means that 149 public streets in Seattle end on waterfronts.  These “shoreline street ends” are precious community assets that should be preserved for public use – that’s where SDOT’S Shoreline Street Ends program comes in.

Our latest project began in late 2015, when community members approached the City of Seattle hoping to organize a cleanup and restoration of the E Highland shoreline street end in Madison Park. The result has been an ongoing collaboration between community members, our Shoreline Street Ends program, Seattle Public Utilities’ Tree Ambassador program, and SDOT Urban Forestry – and the results have been amazing!

As you can see in the before-and-after photos below, their work has truly transformed the space.

Highland SSE before after

So far, volunteers have held two official work parties, one in February and one in March, and with 21 volunteers on hand at the first party, and 28 at the next, the volunteers have accomplished quite an impressive amount.  In roughly six hours of worktime they have managed to, among other improvements, remove 15 cubic yards of weeds and invasive plants such as Himalayan blackberry and English ivy, spread 10 cubic yards of mulch for weed suppression and erosion control, and recover seven full trash bags of garbage from the site!

Highland work party

Additional  improvements are coming soon, and a third work party is scheduled for May 8th at which volunteers plan to finish blackberry removal and spread additional mulch. You can expect more updates to be posted here as this exciting project progresses.

Interested in helping improve this street end or one in your neighborhood? Please contact Diane Walsh at Diane.Walsh@seattle.gov.

Would you like to learn more about the Tree Ambassador volunteer program? Please feel free to email the program organizers at treeambassador@seattle.gov.


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SDOT’s 2015 Accomplishments

SDOT’s 2015 Accomplishments

To meet the challenges of a rapidly growing city while improving safety, delivering its core services, and providing more options for travelers, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) focused on launching important new initiatives in 2015.

Seattle Skyline Day


The nine-year Bridging the Gap transportation levy ended in 2015 and SDOT worked diligently to deliver on the work promised using this funding. A few examples of 2015 work funded by Bridging the Gap include 15 lane-miles of street paving, 11 blocks of new sidewalks, 3,500 trees pruned, 240 maintenance repairs to bridges, and 38 stairways rehabilitated or repaired. The West Emerson Overpass underwent successful upgrade and repairs. Several neighborhoods across the city benefited from microsurfacing (43.3 miles of streets), a preventative maintenance surface treatment that preserves roadways. Nearly 100 percent of potholes requests were filled within three business days.


In 2015 the City of Seattle launched Vision Zero with the goal of ending traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. SDOT studied corridors with high numbers of collisions – Rainier Avenue South, 35th Avenue Southwest, Southwest Roxbury Street and Lake City Way Northeast—to identify ways to improve safety. The department enhanced these four corridors through changes proven effective in reducing collisions, such as lower speed limits, redesigned lane configurations, and improved signage and pedestrian crossings. Preliminary data shows serious collisions were down 26 percent in 2015 from the previous three years.

SDOT also developed the Safe Routes to School Five-Year Action Plan, a part of Vision Zero, to guide new investments in critical areas that will make it even safer and easier for kids to walk and bike to school. The department improved sidewalks and pedestrian crossings on 12 walk-to-school routes around the city and installed school speed zone enforcement cameras at six additional schools.

To provide safer and more comfortable routes for walking and bicycling, more than three miles of neighborhood greenways were added—which are designated routes on non-arterial, low traffic volume streets with safety improvements added—and began work on another nine miles.

In 2015 SDOT and the Seattle Police Department adopted a data-driven approach to enforcement, so that patrols are dispatched to locations where collisions occur frequently and focus on the behaviors that contribute to crashes. SDOT partnered with community organizations to raise awareness about top safety issues, such as developing public service announcements about pedestrian safety for older adults with AARP and KOMO TV.

SDOT also partnered with MADD and Lyft to provide discounted rides home in Seattle’s nightlife hotspots to deter impaired driving. SDOT and SPD additionally coordinated “Blocking the Box” enforcement which helps address vehicles that illegally stop in the intersection impeding traffic and safe pedestrian crossings.


SDOT additionally worked with King County Metro and Sound Transit to make public transit more convenient, faster and more reliable. The department purchased 225,000 hours of additional transit service on Metro’s routes. SDOT installed 11 additional Real Time Information System screens on Metro Route 44 to inform passengers when to expect their next bus. SDOT and Metro also established a program to provide a fare discount for low-income riders. SDOT also coordinated transit lane enforcement with Seattle Police at critical locations.

To address Seattle’s rapid growth, inspectors were assigned to coordinate and monitor public and private work occurring in areas of intense construction, minimizing impacts to the right of way. SDOT also revised policies and procedures for responding to traffic incidents, supporting faster lane openings for collisions, and installed additional dynamic message signs and upgraded traffic cameras to provide advance notice of traffic conditions.

Other accomplishments in 2015 include:


  • Installed 330 new parking pay stations; adjusted on-street parking rates in 12 areas
  • Expanded e-Park to three new garages and installed two new e-Park electronic signs

Pedestrian safety improvements:

  • Improved pedestrian crossings at 35 intersections; installed new signal at 47th SW and Admiral Way SW
  • Installed or upgraded 210 curb ramps
  • Finalized a new director’s rule addressing pedestrian safety around construction

Bicycling facility improvements:

  • Added bike lanes and sharrows to seven miles of streets and maintained 50 miles of bike lane markings
  • Installed bike route signs on 26 miles of routes
  • Provided racks and corrals for 566 parking spaces for bikes

Open space:

  • Oversaw a pilot Play Streets program with 170 play streets
  • Implemented two pavement to parks projects, three parklets and two streateries
  • Converted four shoreline street ends into neighborhood public spaces

Street Operations:

  • Implemented TIMS (Traffic Incident Management Systems) to improve incident responses
  • Expanded Transportation Operations Center hours from 13 (6 a.m.-7 p.m.) to 16 (6 a.m.-10 p.m.) hours weekdays in addition to adding weekends, and are able to staff remotely during off-hours
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Georgetown Trees help celebrate Holidays (well, in the photo anyway)!

Just in time for the holidays—the transformation in Georgetown was recently completed as SDOT implemented an Office of Sustainability plan to turn gray to green for two priority Georgetown neighborhood sites. SDOT Urban Forestry crews installed 16 new street trees in a “depaved” planting strip along Corson Avenue South between South Eddy Street and South Warsaw Street.

The trees also got a little “holiday dressing” too, thanks to a gift of 100 cubic yards of compost from Georgetown’s own Cedar Grove facility. This former block of barren, weedy gravel shoulder received the “green makeover” to extend SDOT street trees on the west side of East Marginal Way (between BNSF rail tracks and the street edge bike lane) for an additional block to the north of the bus stop and crosswalk at Ellis Avenue South.

4 of the 8 new trees planted on East Marginal Way were caught with their Santa hats on this morning (thanks to creative photo editing). Happy Holidays!

New Georgetown Trees

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