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School Starts Next Week – Be Prepared for Traffic Changes

Seattle-ites will notice these signs around town highlighting school safety. Look for a future SDOT blog post about these signs.

Seattle-ites will notice these signs around town highlighting school safety. Look for a future SDOT blog post about these signs.

We hope everyone has a fun and super safe Labor Day weekend and that Seattle students enjoy the last weekend of summer vacation. Traffic patterns will change next Wednesday when school starts, the local fleet of yellow school buses is deployed and kids start walking and biking to class. Here are some basic tips to ensure a safe and smooth transition into the school year:

Watch for Students, Focus on the Road

Kids can be impulsive. They are generally shorter in stature and can be more difficult to see. Drivers should be on the lookout for pedestrians and bicyclists at all times and be especially watchful this time of year as kids get accustomed to their route to school. Everyone should expect to encounter student pedestrians and bicyclists whether you’re on a relatively quiet residential street or a busy principle arterial roadway. Put your phone away, avoid distractions, and keep kids safe!

Walk and Bike to School

It’s been estimated that 20 percent of weekday automobile trips are school-related and that can be seen in the overcrowded streets near our schools during arrival and departure times. Consider kicking off the school year by starting a new habit: walking or biking to school instead of driving. Once the norm in America, the number of students walking and/or biking to school has dropped-off considerably since the 1970s. Our Safe Routes to School program is working to reverse that trend through infrastructure investments and safety education and more and more Seattle schools are on board. After all, active transportation is fun and healthy and kids tend to be more ready to learn when they arrive at school. And by walking or biking to school, your family will have a positive impact on traffic conditions.

ScreenHunter_23 Aug. 29 09.28

Slow Down

The school zone speed limit is 20 miles per hour for good reason – pedestrians hit by vehicles going 20 are likely to survive and the odds of surviving a crash decrease significantly with higher speeds. All of Seattle’s 150+ school zones are well signed so there’s no excuse for exceeding the speed limit. The Seattle Police Department will be out enforcing the reduced speed limit as will the City’s network of school zone photo enforcement cameras. Nine additional cameras will start issuing warning citations on Wednesday (and actual citations in October). Check out our website for more information and remember that 20 is plenty!

Of course SDOT has a lot more to say about Safe Routes to School. Check back to the SDOT Blog in September as we highlight our school safety efforts.

Sunday Time Limits Coming to Pioneer Square in September

Pioneer square parkingIn late September, SDOT will add Sunday time limits to free on-street parking near retail and restaurants in the heart of Pioneer Square. The Sunday time limits are designed to improve parking turnover and access. This will allow more customers and visitors from around the region to visit Pioneer Square and more easily find parking on Sundays.

The change will affect approximately 25 percent of the on-street parking spaces in Pioneer Square and limit parking to two hours between 10 AM to 6 PM. One thing remains the same – Sunday on-street parking is free.

These new time limits will connect to the existing Sunday time limits along the Waterfront added in 2012. A before and after study on the Waterfront showed that the turnover created by the Sunday time limits allowed an additional 30 percent to 40 percent of vehicles to park.

SDOT has worked in Pioneer Square over the past year through the Community Access and Parking Program and sent out a draft plan for Sunday time limits to the neighborhood in early June. Following a review and response to comments received, SDOT is now moving forward with implementation. This effort is funded by WSDOT as part of the Parking Mitigation Plan for SR-99 tunnel construction, and conducted in close partnership with the Alliance for Pioneer Square.

For more information, see the project website:

Pioneer sq parking sign

Street Improvement Continues as Summer Turns into Fall

Fall is coming As the summer construction season transitions to fall, Seattle residents will still see lots of work going on in their neighborhoods, thanks to the Bridging the Gap transportation initiative passed by Seattle voters in 2006. Seattle Department of Transportation crews continue to be very busy making Seattle streets a little smoother and easier to navigate.

SDOT crews focus on striping and marking streets during the long, dry days of summer, including traffic lanes, crosswalks, and bicycle facilities. So far this year, more than 306 crosswalks have been remarked, 533 lane miles of arterial lanes have been restriped, 33 miles of bicycle facilities have been maintained and more than two miles of new facilities have been installed.

Two major paving projects – the North 105th Street and North/Northeast Northgate Way project and the Holman Road project – will be finished this fall. More than 16 lane miles will be repaved as part of these projects. For more information on each of these projects please visit the Bridging the Gap paving web site.

SDOT crews have been restriping and remarking streets this summer.

SDOT crews have been restriping and remarking streets this summer.

In addition to paving projects, work actively continues on several sidewalk projects across the city. SDOT expects to construct seven blocks of new sidewalk in 2014. For more information about the projects and to see a list of locations please visit see their web page.

SDOT is working hard to make Seattle more vibrant city for all of us. Yes, construction projects can be a small inconvenience, however, the improvements will be worth it in the long run.

It’s important to remember to slow down and give workers a little extra space. The arrival of fall brings shorter days, waning light and rain – all of which can make it more difficult to see. Give yourself a few extra minutes to get to where you are going and enjoy the many new facilities that sprung up over the summer!

For more information on Bridging the Gap and its accomplishments please visit the web site.

Northgate paving project will be completed before the end of the year.

Northgate paving project will be completed this fall.

2014 Seattle Design Festival Preview

The Seattle Design Festival begins next week and SDOT is thrilled to once again be a part of this exceptional celebration. In fact, this year’s theme, “Design in Motion,” could not be more fitting for SDOT’s involvement!

Design in Motion logo

The Seattle Design Festival is a two-week event that showcases innovations in design and facilitates discussion among design professionals, city leaders and the public. During these two weeks, we will be leading tours and giving presentations focused on cutting-edge approaches to activating public space, and featuring some of Seattle’s most exciting new public space projects. SDOT events to look out for during this year’s festival include:

TOURS  (be sure to RSVP for tours at the links below) –

Active Alleys: Redesigning for People – Saturday September 6, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Parklets by Bike – Saturday September 6, 2:00 PM – 4:30 PM

First Hill: Connecting People with Parks – Saturday September 13, Time TBD


Public Space in Motion: Perspectives on Change – Saturday September 13, 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM, Seattle Public Library Central

When Tactical Urbanism Grows Up: Managing Public Space in Seattle – Saturday September 13, 2:15 PM – 3:15 PM, Seattle Public Library Central

Shoreline Street Ends: Recapturing Small Spaces – Saturday September 13, 4:15 PM – 5:00 PM, Seattle Public Library Central

Experiential Design by the Shore (an interactive workshop – please RSVP at the link to the left) – Sunday September 14, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM, 90th Place NE Shoreline Street End in the Matthews Beach neighborhood.


Then, on September 19, the final day of SDF2014, SDOT will host Seattle’s PARK(ing) Day from 9 AM to 3 PM. PARK(ing) Day is an international event in which people around the world temporarily convert parking spaces into small parks for public enjoyment.

Park(ing) Day image

To get a better idea of what PARK(ing) Day is all about, visit our PARK(ing) Day website. Then, if you’re feeling extra inspired and want to join the fun of PARK(ing) Day, download a free application to tell us about your plans. But hurry, the deadline to submit your application is this Friday, August 29! If instead, you’d just like to check out some or all of what PARK(ing) Day in Seattle has to offer, a map of the planned 2014 PARK(ing) Day pop-up parks will be available here about a week before the event.

We hope to see you at the festival!

Central Area Neighborhood Greenway Open Houses

Please join us at an open house next week to learn more about the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway most promising routes for Phases 2 and 3 (the south and north ends of the greenway, respectively) and share your input. We will review the evaluation criteria of previously studied routes, the most promising route from Rainier Avenue S. to E. Roanoke Street, and some of the design elements that may be applied.

CANG Most Promising Route

This greenway is being developed in close coordination with the 23rd Avenue Corridor Improvements Project and will provide a bicycle and pedestrian facility off of 23rd Avenue. The modified 23rd Avenue is being designed to improve mobility through the corridor, but it will not include a protected bike lane. People on foot and riding bikes may prefer a calmer route. For those reasons, and to help achieve Seattle’s goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030, SDOT is installing the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway near this busy arterial.

Neighborhood greenways are safer, calm residential streets that provide a more comfortable environment for people to walk, run and bike. Starting with a good foundation (a street with already low car volumes and speeds), small improvements are made that add up to a big difference. Improvements can include adding speed humps, signage, and pavement markings, reducing the speed limit, and making crossings easier by adding curb extensions, rapid flashing beacons, crosswalks, medians, or traffic signals at busy intersections.

The project is separated into three phases.

  • Phase 1 (E John Street to S Jackson Street)
  • Phase 2 (S Jackson Street to Rainier Avenue S)
  • Phase 3 (E Roanoke Street to E John Street)

We are completing final design for Phase 1 now and anticipate that its construction will begin this fall. Phases 2 and 3 will begin design this fall and we anticipate construction will begin in summer 2015.

Open House Details

Read more »

PARK(ing) Day Applications due in one week

Don’t let someone take your PARK(ing) Day spot! Applications are due at the end of the month…it’s quick, easy and (the best part) free to apply.

Parking Day

PARK(ing) Day happens once a year, on the third Friday in September—September 19 this year—and is an opportunity for any Seattleite to temporarily turn parking spaces into pop-up parks. The event raises awareness about important issues like creating a walkable, livable, healthy city and helps people re-think how our streets can be used.

To apply, first pick your parking spaces, and then fill out the simple and FREE application on our website. Check out our guidelines for some tips about planning your pop-up park. And most importantly, get your application turned in to by Friday, August 29.

These Seattleites are using on-street space in a whole new way!

For additional information about Seattle PARK(ing) Day, please visit

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.”

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.


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:


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!






Bridging the Gap Annual Report!

The 2013 Bridging the Gap (BTG) Annual Report is now complete and available on-line. 2013 was the seventh year of the levy program and was once again a successful year for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). BTG programs are helping to make Seattle smoother, easier to navigate and more vibrant! You can view the report on-line here.


BTG is a nine-year, $365 million levy that begins to address twenty years of deferred maintenance caused by chronic under-funding of the transportation infrastructure. Approved by voters in 2006, BTG enables much-needed work by SDOT, such as roadway paving, sidewalk development and repair, bridge upkeep, and tree pruning and planting. It also supports the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master plans, the Safe Routes to School program, enhanced transit connections and large Neighborhood Street Fund projects.

Bridging the Gap work is supported by an appointed citizens’ Levy Oversight Committee that meets quarterly. This 15-member body monitors revenues and expenditures, and reviews program and project schedules to provide full accountability to voters on BTG activities. A list of committee members can be viewed on their webpage.

Visit the Bridging the Gap web page to view the 2013 Annual Report.

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…


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!