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Once Around the Web: Safety First!

Summer is winding down (say it ain’t so!) but construction projects still abound around the city. This week, the New York State Department of Transportation released a new public safety announcement video that reminds motorists to slow down in work zones. It’s effective and sad and very worth watching.

“…they’re not just cones.”

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Landscaping Seattle City Right of Way: a Math Problem

Do you ever drive down a landscaped Seattle street and wonder, “Why don’t they maintain that median?” or, “Wow, I love the landscaping along this road, it really makes the neighborhood.”

In Seattle, there are approximately 123 acres of landscaped public right of way and tree pits—with just 12 gardeners to maintain it all. That means the team must diligently prioritize workload. The number one priority is ensuring these areas are safe and provide accessibility as they were designed. That’s the goal whether the landscaping was installed in the 1960’s, like it was when the 15th Avenue NW and Nickerson Street interchange was being built, or newly installed, as with the Mercer  corridor improvements.

1960 Seattle Municipal Archives photo of Emerson Street Interchange; Nickerson Approach to bridge.

1960 Seattle Municipal Archives photo; Nickerson Approach to bridge.

Mercer Corridor construction and landscaping work in January 2014

Mercer Corridor construction and landscaping work in January 2014

 

The Seattle Department of Transportation Urban Forestry gardeners are well-trained in current professional standards—several are Certified Professional Horticulturists and ISA Certified Arborists. Though the staff is knowledgeable and dedicated, it still comes down to a numbers game. The dozen SDOT Urban Forestry gardeners, supported by two irrigation specialists, are only able to reach about half of the landscaped areas each year for proactive maintenance.

Despite the challenge, the nimble team keeps multiple programs going (click on example photos below, for larger views): mowing for 6-8 months; leaf pick-up every fall; tree pit maintenance; landscape maintenance year-round; planting several hundred streets trees every spring and fall (funded by Bridging the Gap); and accent landscapes work, which is the more labor intensive flower beds featuring perennials and annuals.LANDSCAPE BEFORE & AFTER 021 Picture 0445TH AVE NE PHASE II 003 5TH AVE NE PHASE II 005 16th AVE SW MEDIANS 9.13 005

Some of the maintenance work, which focuses first on arterials, also requires traffic control like the recent work along Harbor Avenue SW (see photos below). The travel lane was shifted to the parking lane for six hours, each of three days last week, to ensure the workers were safe and to meet safety standards set by the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices or MUTCD. From Southwest Spokane Street to Southwest Florida Street, along Harbor Avenue, the team weeded and cut back plants to improve visibility and added mulch to suppress weed growth.HarborAve

 Above: Segment of Harbor Avenue during and after landscape maintenance
(click for larger view)

So far this year SDOT Urban Forestry has recycled over 430 cubic yards of wood chip mulch back into landscapes. This mulch suppresses weeds, conditions the soil, retains soil moisture and reduces the need for herbicides. It’s important maintenance, and it’s needed all over the city.

A volunteer Tree Ambassador recants how history has shaped the trees in Seward Park during a recent Tree Walk.

A volunteer Tree Ambassador recants how history has shaped the trees in Seward Park during a recent ReLeaf Program Tree Walk.

The math starts to work out when volunteers become involved. SDOT relies on the community to help alert us to issues in landscaped areas we are unable to attend to; and on neighborhoods to help with litter pickup, weeding and group work parties. Seattle’s ReLeaf Tree Ambassador Program, a Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities joint project, is there to train volunteers who are interested in leading landscape maintenance events in their neighborhoods.

Recently, a volunteer group organized by the Tree Ambassador Program, helped weed and mulch over 25 tree pits along Martin Luther King Jr Way near the Rainier Beach Transit Station. On August 9, a group of 16 volunteers working at N 46th Street and Aurora Avenue N (pictured below), removed 10 bags of garbage and 5 yards of weeds; freed 4 large conifers from strangling ivy; and laid down fresh mulch.

RainierVounteers

Volunteers gathered at N 46th St and Aurora Ave N to address maintenance needs

 

Similar work took place again this past weekend, on August 16, on Beacon Hill at Beacon Avenue S and 15th Avenue S. Want to be part of the equation? Add to the crew and make a winning solution this Saturday, August 23, in Rainier Beach:

RainierVounteer

When volunteers join forces with the dedicated gardener dozen, and the irrigation specialists give the plantings what they need to survive—the City starts to look pretty vibrant.

If you like solving math problems, help us solve for X:

(12 Gardeners) + (2 Irrigation Specialiats) + (X Volunteers) = 123 well-kept acres

Want to get your number in the game?

Thank you Seattle!

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Make Your Street A Play Street

Ever wish you could temporarily close the street in front of your house so kids (and adults!) in your neighborhood could play freely and safely? Now you can!

On May 30 of this year, Seattle’s first Play Street took place as part of the new Pilot Play Streets program. Since then, Play Streets have been popping up all over Seattle, giving communities more room to play, exercise, have fun and get to know their neighbors.

So what exactly is a Play Street? In short, it’s whatever you want it to be.

Play Streets are neighborhood streets that are temporarily closed to traffic and opened up for a wide variety of activities. What you and your neighbors do in your Play Street is up to you! Possible activities include dance parties, hopscotch, jump rope, basketball, chalk art projects, potlucks, yoga, street hockey, unstructured playtime — you get the idea.

Ballard residents made the sign shown here to raise awareness of their recurring Play Street…

PlayStreet

Want to make YOUR street a Play Street?

The first thing to do is to make sure the street you have in mind will have clear visibility from intersections at each end.

Play Streets can only be one block long and must be on a non-arterial (see this map to determine if your street is a non-arterial).

Next, talk to all of your neighbors and see if they want to join you in setting up a Play Street. Then, if everyone is on board, fill out your free application here!

Play Streets can be set up as a one-time event (i.e. street dance) or can be recurring (see photo above). So, meet your neighbors, break out the soccer balls and squirt guns, and set up your very own Play Street!

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2014 Parklets Construction Update

As Seattle’s Pilot Parklet Program heats up, pedestrians around Seattle are finding new places to cool off, relax and take in the city around them.

In case you aren’t familiar with Seattle’s new Parklet Program, parklets are a way for people to transform underutilized parking spaces into dynamic park spaces that can be used by the public in a variety of ways.

Right now, there are just two completed parklets in Seattle, one outside Montana Bar in Capitol Hill and the other outside Oasis Tea Zone in the International District. But this is soon to change as these two pioneering parklets have inspired a number of other businesses and organizations to dream up designs for parklets in their own neighborhoods. Of the many submissions, 13 parklet proposals have been selected to move forward as part of this year’s pilot program – three of these will likely be completed by the end of this month! We expect the remaining 10 will be soon to follow.

The next three parklets to be completed are the Cortona Café parklet in the Central District (2425 E Union St), the City Hostel Seattle parklet in Belltown (2327 2nd Ave), and the Chromer Building parklet in Downtown (1516 2nd Ave). Check out the plans for each of these parklets below, and get ready for their unveilings over the next several weeks! To see if there is a parklet planned for your neighborhood, check out this map.

Below: CORTONA CAFÉ PARKLET DESIGN

CortonaParkletDesign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below: CITY HOSTEL PARKLET DESIGN (image courtesy of Boxwood)

HostelParkletDesign

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below: CHROMER BUILDING PARKLET DESIGN

ChromerParkletDesign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of this year, after Seattleites have had some time to get acquainted with their new spaces, the Pilot Parklet Program will conduct an evaluation to determine how effectively the program compliments and enhances the public’s enjoyment of Seattle’s streets. If the program seems to be a good fit, parklets will likely become a permanent part of Seattle’s public space programming, and more of Seattle’s businesses and neighborhood groups will have the chance to build parklets for their own communities.

Given the success of the city’s first two parklets, we expect that the Parklets Program will continue to grow, and that Seattle will soon be home to an even wider network of new, innovative and inspiring public spaces. If you visit a parklet in the next few months, and feel so inclined, send us a photo or a few words to tell us what you think about your city’s new parklets!

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Once Around the Web: Fun in the Sun

Don’t forget PhinneyWood Summer Streets is this Saturday! In previous years it was always on Friday so don’t miss it! This year, among many other fun things, SDOT will be demonstrating a Pop-up Protected Bike Lane so folks can get a hands-on feel for protected bike lanes. Pretty cool innovation for Seattle! But watch this video and you’ll see how far we still have to go if we really want to be a super-bike-friendly city.

Copenhagen (or course!) is building six new bridges exclusively for biking and walking and they’ve started adding garbage baskets angled for cyclists and LED lights that indicate whether riders have to speed up to catch the green wave AND the Snake! (Just watch the video). Of course only 12% of people in Copenhagen are driving their cars (lots of construction is tying things up even more than usual) so they have the determination and the motivation to facilitate lots of cycling and cycling improvements.

For a related but different perspective, check out this from Treehugger:

Are you familiar with The Bike Design Project? You should be, because the Seattle team just won it! Their innovative bike, Denny,  just might revolutionize biking in Seattle and elsewhere. Check it out!

Five Teams. Five Cities.
The Ultimate Urban Utility Bike.

The Bike Design Project is an independent innovation platform for the urban utility bike. We’ve partnered high-level design firms with American bicycle craftsmen to collaboratively develop the next-wave urban bike. Five teams from five cycling-centric cities are competing to concept, create and champion their unique vision of tomorrow’s bicycle for the everyday rider.

This competition isn’t on paper. Each team is developing a fully functional, road-tested prototype. High design and deep craft combine to create a very real and viable end product.

Here’s the Denny in all its glory:

Why is it great for Seattle? The Weekly sums it up nicely for us:

  1. The handlebars (aka bike lock)
  2. The electric motor
  3. The lights

Seattle-based Teague and Sizemore Bicycle, in partnership with Fuji Bikes, will now move to the manufacturing phase and The Denny should be available to purchase next year. (Pro Tip! Start saving your cash now because early estimates say the price will be in the $3000.00 range.) And here’s a fun fact! On the current prototype of “The Denny” the frame is made of 3D printed metal.

Lastly, I’d like to wish a very Happy Belated Birthday to the World’s First Patented Electric Traffic Light. It just turned 100 years old on August 5th. Well, red and green did. Yellow is about 6 years younger. Enjoy these few shots from across the years. Looking good! (Dates are approximate)

1931

trafficlight1931seattle

1959

trafficlight1959seattle

Photo taken 1999. Light clearly older.

tafficlightSeattle1999

2005

trafficlightSeattle2005

2014 (Note new bike signal)

trafficlightSeattle2013

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Four-day SR 99 Closure Shines Spotlight on Tunnel’s North Portal

You may have heard that SR 99 will be closed for four straight days by the state starting Friday night, August 22. It’s the longest full closure of SR 99 in Seattle since crews demolished the southern mile of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in 2011. While this is probably not welcome news for travelers, it is a sign of progress at the tunnel’s north portal.

The 2011 demolition of the southern portion of the viaduct cleared the way for construction of the tunnel launch pit and the commencement of tunneling. During this month’s closure crews will demolish the SR 99 bridge above Broad Street, which will clear the way for continued construction of ramp and roadway connections at the tunnel’s north portal.

North Portal of the Tunnel

The shape of those connections is a little hard to imagine now, but this visualization from the Washington State Department of Transportation helps show how all the pieces of the portal will function. As you can see, the city’s two-way Mercer Street is a key component to making this portal function. You might be surprised to learn that a big piece of the north portal, the tunnel entrance, is mostly complete. In the next year you’ll start to see the outlines of the lanes and ramps that connect to the tunnel entrance. Since much of this change can’t be seen on the ground, the construction camera views on the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program website are the best way to keep track of progress toward the future north portal of the SR 99 tunnel.

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Create your own pop-up park for PARK(ing) Day 2014

PARK(ing) Day is September 19—just two months away—and we’re accepting applications. This is your chance to have a little fun in the street and create a pop-up park for a day!BlogPARKing2

Haven’t heard of PARK(ing) Day? It’s an international event on the third Friday in September that helps to raise awareness about creating a walkable, livable, and healthy city. This marks the eighth year that Seattle has participated. Last year we had more than 40 pop-up parks around the city…let’s go for 100 this year.

PARK(ing) Day is your opportunity to turn an on-street parking space into something different for a few hours. Get your friends, neighbors, co-workers, or family together and start planning now. What will you do in your parking space park between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Friday, September 19?

We’ve included a gallery of 2013 PARK(ing) Day installations on our updated website, so take a peek and get inspired. There’s also a new application form—don’t worry, it’s still free to participate—to make it even easier for you to reserve your space.

blogPARKing1You can plan your park for either an arterial street (at least two spaces) or a residential street (one space is fine) most anywhere in Seattle. More information about the dos and don’ts for PARK(ing) Day parks is available on our website, and we’re here to help you find a space that works and guide you through the process.

The simple application is due by August 29, but the sooner you apply, the better. Don’t risk someone else reserving your favorite space! Send your completed form to Joshua.Saitelbach@seattle.gov or call 206-733-9970 with questions.

For more information about Seattle’s PARK(ing) Day please visit www.Seattle.gov/transportation/seattleparkingday.htm.

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Tree Ambassador Training well received

The Seattle Department of Transportation Street Use & Urban Forestry team, in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities, recently completed another Tree Ambassador training. For the training, focused on street tree stewardship, all survey respondents rated the instructors as good or very good and provided written comments including:

  • “All three of the facilitators were enthusiastic, well informed, and very comfortable presenting,”
  • “Joshua is excellent with technical questions, and all have a positive and open attitude which is a breath of fresh air…”TreeAmassadorsWorking
  • “I enjoyed the mix of speakers, especially hearing from Tree Ambassadors that had already hosted events…”

There are three training topics offered: street tree stewardship; landscape renewal; and tree walks. All training sessions help interested volunteers care for Seattle’s trees, and engage communities in their neighborhood to do the same.

The Tree Ambassador effort is in its third year and has trained 45 volunteers so far in 2014. The project is led by Seattle ReLeaf, a program housed in SPU and in partnership with SDOT and the nonprofit group Forterra.

Following trainings, each participant is asked to submit a project plan outlining what they would like to do. The program evaluates proposals for feasibility, cost, safety, etc., and works with the volunteers to modify and implement plans as necessary.

Tree Ambassador events happen year round, with the next one August 9, from 9 a.m. to noon, on the northeast side of Aurora Avenue & N 46th.

For more information on the program or to see other upcoming events visit the website at: http://www.seattle.gov/trees/treeambassador.htm

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Once Around the Web: Highway Funding Crash Course

Step 1: Watch this White House white board video starring Joe Biden


White House White Board: Vice President Biden on Rebuild America

Step 2: Pick your 10 favorites from these links and read them. Talk to your friends and loved ones about these issues.

Step 3: Watch this video


Shabby Road: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

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Complete Streets: Providing Safe Streets for all Users

“Complete Streets” is an approach to planning, designing, and operating streets so that they provide safe, convenient and comfortable travel for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, transit riders, and freight. Complete Streets improvements can include safety-enhancing elements such as providing new and/or wider sidewalks, improved pedestrian crossing treatments, enhanced landscaping(including street trees or other landscaping between the sidewalk and the roadway), enhanced lighting, marked in-street or protected bike lanes, improved intersection design, traffic-calming measures, and improved accessibility for disabled travelers. Complete Streets safety improvements can help make streets safer for everyone by reducing vehicle crashes and providing safe facilities for walking and bicycling for people of all ages and abilities.

The City Council adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2007. Complete Streets is the lens through which SDOT approaches all new major transportation projects. One of our most recent Complete Streets projects is on 23rd Avenue East, a principal arterial connecting a variety of users to businesses, educational institutions and residences in the Central District and beyond, and serving high volumes of pedestrians, bike riders, and transit users. Given concerns about the poor pedestrian, bicycle, and transit facilities along the corridor, SDOT expanded its original plan to repave the roadway to include Complete Streets safety and accessibility improvements within the project’s scope.

The proposed roadway redesign for the segment between E John St. and Rainier Ave. S will reduce the roadway from four vehicular lanes to two through-lanes and a center turning lane, thereby allowing vehicles to turn without blocking traffic and managing drivers cutting in and out of lanes, reducing collisions and speeding, creating space for wider sidewalks, and making streets easier to cross for pedestrians. The project is also evaluating routes for a parallel greenway to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety in the area by providing a safe north/south route through the area. The intended result is a safer roadway for all users.

Phase 1 construction (between E John St. and S Jackson St.) begins in late 2014/early 2015, with construction between S Jackson St. and Rainier Ave. S, and between E Roanoke St. and E John St. beginning in late 2015. More information on the project can be found at http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/23rd_ave.htm

23rd Ave E: Existing Cross Section

23rd Ave E: Existing Cross Section23rd Ave E: New Cross Section

23rd Ave E: New Cross Section

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