Construction on the Hill: Businesses are Open!

Development in and around downtown Seattle is booming, especially in the designated Capitol Hill construction hub where a total of 24 projects are currently in construction. One particularly concentrated area is around 10th and 11th avenues, near E Union Street. That’s where three active construction projects have been going for about two years including Seattle City Light underground work and Seattle Department of Transportation street restoration work along 10th Avenue. The combined impacts have created a number of challenges for businesses in the area, especially since another big project will soon break ground on the same street.

So what do businesses do when surrounded by seemingly continuous construction? That’s a question the Access Seattle Construction Hub team is looking to successfully answer. The team meets regularly with contractors and project managers of all public and private projects to reduce cumulative impacts. They also meet with business owners and residents to identify problems and seek solutions through project coordination. But, it’s still challenging. Take Sweatbox Yoga for instance. Located at 1417 10th Avenue, the cranes they’re surrounded with are forcing business owners into something of a crane pose themselves–difficult for even the most advanced yoga enthusiasts to hold for an extended time, much less for 24 months or so.


On the plus side, a huge project at the corner of E Union and 10th Avenue just wrapped up (see green on the map). Of course, another big project is set to start mid-December at 1427 11th Avenue, building 136 residential units and a 128-car parking garage below. Again, the progress creating housing and jobs and other improvements also creates hurdles. SDOT’s Access Seattle Construction Hub team wants to hear what those hurdles are, at stakeholder meetings held every other Friday at 10 a.m. at the Comet Tavern. The more we know, the more we can strive to coordinate for improved access.

Construction in cities is a necessary occurrence, but dwindling patronage shouldn’t be. Though they promote relaxation of sorts, Sweatbox Yoga isn’t taking it lying down. Owners Frankie and Laura have launched a campaign to weather the Capitol Hill construction and stay strong well into the future. Their creative idea is The SweatBox Small and Mighty Campaign, offering reward packages for donations as well as other thanks for showing support. We applaud their innovative business plan, as we too look at ways to keep businesses thriving during unprecedented development.   Let’s keep working to get the word out—businesses are open!

Quick action protects public and property

As you watch weather reports for the next predicted storm, know that the SDOT Urban Forestry team is looking out for you! Their quick thinking and decision making earlier this month is an example. During the November 6th wind storm that left so many people without power, another impact was waiting to happen: a massive Ash tree along the 1300 block of N 45th Street was swaying with such force that the sidewalk near its base began to crack.

Crews at the adjacent construction project called Urban Forestry for help. They knew who to call since the Urban Forestry team was regularly monitoring the site to ensure surrounding trees were protected during construction.


Large Ash trees in the 1300 block of N 45th Street at risk of collapse during November 6, 2014 windstorm

Certified Arborist and SDOT Tree Crew Supervisor Joe Markovich went out immediately to determine next steps. Seeing that the tree could not be saved he called in a contractor he knew could do quality work on short notice. While coordinating on site, Joe noticed that another tree was on the verge of failure, so he expanded the project to cover two tree removals and worked fast to update other agencies responding to the storm.


Crews work to remove the unstable trees before they collapse

The threat to public safety warranted a temporary full closure of N 45th Street between Interlaken and Stone Way N, but it wasn’t closed for long. Coordinating with tree removal contractor Kemp West, SDOT Street Maintenance, the Seattle Police Department and King County Metro the risk was abated and the road reopened in less than three hours. The effective communication and collaboration will surely be needed again, as this is the season for Seattle windstorms!

Innovative Maintenance Facility

Picture courtesy of Rushing Co

Picture courtesy of Rushing Co

Picture  courtesy of Rushing Co

Picture courtesy of Rushing Co

The streetcars that will run on the First Hill Line will be maintained in a facility that was just awarded a LEED Gold Certificate for its many sustainable features. Some of the most notable elements are:

  • a green roof with a 7kW solar panel array
  • a bio-retention area and pervious concrete pavers to maximize stormwater collection and infiltration
  • abundant daylighting with operable windows and skylights to provide natural ventilation and cooling
  • high efficiency LED and fluorescent lighting with smart controls
  • radiant in-floor heating which utilizes a high efficiency hydronic heating boiler

Other energy systems for the facility include a heat recovery ventilator, a variable refrigerant flow system and heat reclaim from the electrical room.

These characteristics are all the more impressive when considering that the nature of the facility and its construction. More than 17% of the materials used in the construction (by cost) were recycled and more than 10% were sourced locally (within 500 miles). The lumber used was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure responsible forest management and while other materials and finishes were low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) certified.

In addition the facility will foster ongoing energy savings by maintenance staff. It includes an electric car charging station, bicycle storage and (energy efficient) showers.

This Gold LEEDS Certificate demonstrates the viability of adopting sustainable design for all types of buildings – and the commitment to innovation in the design and maintenance of Seattle’s Streetcar system.

LEED Certifications

Did you know that right-of-way street trees make city streets safer?

urban treesTrees and landscape in the roadside can have a positive effect on driver behavior and perception, resulting in better safety performance.[1]

A study of Texas urban roads showed a 46% decrease in crash rates across the 10 urban arterial and highway sites after landscape improvements were installed. After the improvements, the number of collisions with trees declined by 71%. Another study found that placing trees and planters in urban arterial roadsides reduced mid-block crashes by 5% to 20%.[2]

All types of roadside treatments—roadside landscaping, median landscaping, and sidewalk widening with tree planting—positively affected vehicle safety outcomes. A marked decrease in the number of pedestrian fatalities was also noted—from 18 to 2 after landscape improvements.[3]

Drivers seeing natural roadside views show lower levels of stress and frustration compared to those viewing all-built settings.[4]

Commuting can be one of the most pervasive stressful experiences of urban life. Stress indicators—such as increased blood pressure—are associated with longer or more difficult commutes. Other affects have also been associated with commuting—lowered job satisfaction, higher illness and absenteeism rates, and lower performance on various cognitive tasks. Incorporating vegetation in roadside landscaping is one way to ease driving stress.

Multiple studies confirm the restorative effects of simply viewing nature in urban settings. [5],[6]

Drivers viewing natural roadsides exhibit lower levels of stress and frustration compared to those viewing built settings. In one lab study, drivers were presented with a stress-causing stimulus and their reactions measured in the course of recovery. Study participants seeing more natural roadside scenes returned to normal baseline measures faster. An “immunization effect” was also detected—the initial exposure to a natural roadside setting decreased the magnitude of stress response to subsequent stressful tasks. Parkway design and roadside vegetation appear to have restorative effects in reducing frustration.

Support for this summary was provided by the national Urban and Community Forestry program of the USDA Forest Service, State and Private Forestry. Green Cities: Good Health summary prepared by Kathleen Wolf, Ph.D., June 29, 2010.

[1] Mok, J.-H., H.C. Landphair, and J.R. Naderi. 2006. Landscape Improvement Impacts on Roadside Safety in Texas. Landscape and Urban Planning 78:263-274

[2] Naderi, J.R. 2003. Landscape Design in the Clear Zone: Effect of Landscape Variables on Pedestrian Health and Driver Safety. Transportation Research Record 1851:119-130.

[3] Mok, J.-H., H.C. Landphair, and J.R. Naderi. 2003. Comparison of Safety Performance of Urban Streets Before and After Landscape Improvements. Proceedings of the 2nd Urban Street Symposium (Anaheim, California). Transportation Research Board, Washington DC.

[4] Wolf, K.L. 2003. Freeway Roadside Management: The Urban Forest Beyond the White Line. Journal of Arboriculture 29, 3:127-136.

[5] Ulrich, R.S., R.F. Simons, B.D. Losito, E. Fiorito, M.A. Miles, and M. Zelson. 1991. Stress Recovery During Exposure to Natural and Urban Environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology 1:201-230.

[6] Kaplan, S. 1995. The Restorative Benefits of Nature: Toward an Integrative Framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology 15:169-182

Once Around the Web: Watch This!

Unless your name is Weird Al, pop song parodies are seldom successful. Never mind pop song parodies by governmental agencies trying to impart important, if unexciting, information on little to no budget. That’s the basic recipe for a hot mess, right? That’s why this video from Akron Metro is so great – it’s surprisingly adept, funny, and informative! Check out All About That Bus (parody of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”)

For the super wonky among us, check out this video from David Levinson. David teaches Introduction to Transportation Engineering at the University of Minnesota and he’s got a whole YouTube channel full of videos about key topics from his class. Do you know the difference between an approach, a cycle and a phase when it comes to traffic lights? You will after you watch this video on Traffic Signal Terminology. Well, you’ll either learn something or you’ll cure your insomnia. It’s a win/win!

Seriously though, the videos provide a very detailed overview on transportation engineering and some of its complexities. They might even give you a new appreciation for what DongHo Chang, Seattle’s City Traffic Engineer, and the whole Traffic Management team here at SDOT are up against every day. Timing traffic signals, Traffic Analysis at Signalized Intersections, Solving For Impedance, and so much more await you!

Join the discussion to improve safety on Rainier Avenue South

RainierPostcard (1)Community meetings scheduled for Nov. 12 and Nov. 18

The Seattle Department of Transportation invites community members to attend one of two community meetings this month to help improve safety on Rainier Avenue South. At the meetings we will review existing conditions and traffic data, discuss potential engineering and enforcement strategies, and hear concerns from residents. SDOT Director Scott Kubly plans to attend both meetings; Mayor Ed Murray will kick-off the Nov. 18 meeting. Nov. 12

6 to 8 p.m.

The Columbia School Cafeteria/Commons

3528 South Ferdinand Street

Nov. 18

4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The Ethiopian Community Center

8323 Rainier Avenue South

SDOT Director Scott Kubly explained, “We want to have a conversation with the community that uses Rainier Avenue South. Our goal is to improve safety for everyone—whether traveling by car, truck, bus, bike or on foot—while supporting the many businesses along this avenue.”

For more information, please see the webpage for the Rainier Avenue South Road Safety Corridor Project at


Grants, grants and more grants!

BTG20logo-RESIZEThe Bridging the Gap (BTG) Transportation levy was passed by Seattle voters in 2006. BTG committed not only to construct city-funded transportation projects, but also to leverage other funds and support a variety of partnership opportunities. In the past eight years, the average annual amount of grants awarded to SDOT has increased more than 50%.

As BTG approaches the end of its nine-year lifespan, approximately $340 million in BTG funds have been spent, and these expenditures have been matched with $227 million in grants. This is well above the commitment that BTG initially made to Seattle voters, to leverage at least 20% in grant funding. In addition to providing the required local match for many grants, BTG has helped SDOT to design the well-planned and clearly-scoped projects that are attractive for granting agencies.

For additional information on BTG please visit the BTG web page. For more information on SDOT’s grant development program, visit the grants web page.

King Street Station

King Street Station


Streetcar Connection for Center of the City

Center City Open House Handout-1No transportation project may better exemplify the value of transportation connections in Seattle than the Seattle Streetcar – Center City Connector. This project would literally connect South Lake Union streetcar line, which opened in 2007, with the First Hill streetcar line which will begin operations in 2015. The Center City Connector will link over a dozen Seattle neighborhoods with a system that stretches from Capitol Hill and First Hill, to the International District and South Downtown, and north to the Denny Triangle and South Lake Union, passing through the heart of downtown. By linking existing streetcar investments, the Connector will provide a streetcar system that is easy-to-use for a variety of trip purposes and serves major visitor destinations, employment centers, and areas where the city is experiencing significant growth. With this new linkage, the Seattle Center City streetcar system is projected to carry in the range of 23,000 to 30,000 average weekday riders.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved First Avenue as the route for this new streetcar segment. The streetcar will serve key Center City destinations such as the Pike Place Market, Marion Street bridge to the ferries at Colman Dock, and Pioneer Square.

Completion of the Center City Connector will allow for a new operating pattern designed to provide very high frequency service-every five minutes from the Westlake area to Pioneer Square, and every ten minutes outside of the core.  The City Council has authorized SDOT to proceed with design and environmental review as well as development of funding strategies. The City will be seeking a Federal grant of up to $75 million toward the $110M project cost. Preliminary work is already underway focusing on urban design opportunities, connection options between First Avenue and the Westlake Transportation Hub, parking and access strategies, and construction phasing options.

An Open House for the project is planned for November 19th 5:00 – 7:30 PM, at 85 Pike Street on the 3rd Floor in the Elliott Bay Room and Atrium Loft. Feel free to find out more about the Seattle Streetcar at where you can sign up to receive updates on this and other streetcar news.

Center City Open House Handout1_Page_2


Can you see it now? Signal Improvement work thanks to Bridging the Gap!

New signal 145thHave you noticed all the work that the Seattle Department of Transportation has been doing recently? Much of that work has been accomplished thanks to the Bridging the Gap (BTG) Transportation initiative. The initiative, currently in its eighth year, has provided key funding for paving roads, constructing new sidewalks, re-striping arterials, rehabilitating bridges, replacing worn out street name signs, striping bikes and sharrows, repairing sidewalks, pruning and planting trees and making improvements along key transit corridors across the city.

While many of the BTG projects are highly visible, funding is also provided for basic maintenance work that is not so visible. Some of the projects include completing preventative maintenance on all 1,070 signals in the city each year and maintaining the “brains” behind the signals. Keeping signals in good working order is important to keeping traffic moving. SDOT has kept its promise to maintain all signals annually and to upgrade and maintain the systems behind those signals.

New traffic signal requests, left turn improvement requests and overall safety concerns are all investigated as part of BTG. If that investigation determines that a new signal or improvement is necessary, funding is available through the BTG program. Over the first seven years of the levy more than 445 new signal requests have been reviewed resulting in 27 new signals installed; 224 left turn requests have been investigated, resulting in 36 improvements; and, more than 333 overall safety concerns have been evaluated resulting in more than 185 improvements. These improvements are not cheap and every request ,whether implemented or not , must go through a lengthy process of on-site monitoring, data analysis, evaluation, review, more number crunching before final approvals.  The actual installation phase entails another equally lengthy process and none of this could happen without the funding from the BTG.

A lot of BTG project work is highly visible and easily recognized; it is the less visible work that helps keep traffic (all modes!) moving and safe. If you would like more information on BTG please visit the website.



Roosevelt Way NE Slated for Repaving in 2015-Project Open House on Monday, November 17

Roosevelt Way NE now

Roosevelt Way NE now

Each year, SDOT repaves several major city streets meeting basic maintenance needs, while taking advantage of the work to make other improvements that enhance mobility and safety.

Roosevelt Way NE from NE 65th Street to the south end of the University Bridge is slated for repaving in 2015, with construction currently scheduled to begin next summer and likely continue 2016. In addition to repaving the street, other project elements include:

  • Installation of curb bulbs at key intersections. Curb bulbs extend the sidewalk out, shortening the pedestrian crossing distance and making it easier for the crossing pedestrians and motorists to see each other
  • Replacement of substandard curb ramps to meet federal ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements. (Curb ramps, generally located at intersections, slope from the sidewalk to street level to facilitate the movement of those in wheelchairs, the sight impaired using canes, or people pushing strollers or walking a bike.)
  • Installation of a protected one-way bike lane along the west side of Roosevelt Way from NE 45th south across the University Bridge. Cross hatch markings in the pavement along with posts between the bike and general traffic lanes will separate people riding bicycles from motorized traffic. To reduce the risk of collisions involving bicycle riders, SDOT is installing a temporary protected bike lane from NE 45th Street to NE 40th Street in December 2014/January 2015, weather permitting.

Existing Cross Section

Proposed Cross Section

Proposed Cross Section

Should additional funding be secured, the project will also:

  •  Replace buckled or broken sidewalks
  • Install bright, energy-saving LED street lights on the west side of Roosevelt

The public is invited to learn more about the project, as well as to ask any questions and/or express concerns at an open house to be held Monday, November 17, 5:30 – 7:30 PM.   The meeting will be held at University Heights Community Center, 5031 University Way NE, Room: 108. A project overview presentation will occur at 6:15 PM.