Old Public Stairways Getting a Makeover

SDOT’s bridge crews take care of much more than bridges—they are also responsible for nearly 500 outdoor stairways, used by residents to get to bus stops, schools, stores and other community destinations.  The crews are currently rehabilitating the top flight of the S Ferdinand Street stairway near the Columbia City Link light rail station, and will return next year with additional funding to work on the bottom flight. The long stairway connects 30th Avenue S with Martin Luther King Jr. Way S through a steep wooded area.

Most of Seattle’s stairways were built between 1920 and 1950, at the time the city’s street system was being completed. Where grades were too steep for a street, stairways were built. Now 70 to 80 years old, many need repairs and upgrades to meet today’s safety standards. Bridging the Gap funds enable safety improvements (such as proper step height, tread width, rail height, and distance between landings) in addition to repairs.

The S Ferdinand Street stairway improvements are funded by the Bridging the Gap transportation initiative approved by Seattle voters. This year’s four other stairway projects funded by Bridging the Gap are located at S Spencer Street and Rainier Avenue S, 29th Avenue E and E Union Street, E Spruce Street and Boren Avenue, and NE 40th Street and Fourth Avenue NE.  This year’s work using other funding sources includes the recently completed stairway at NE 97th Street and 19th NE, two stairways in Ravenna Park, and work to begin soon at SW Lucile Street and 20th Ave S.