Comments on Rule making Sidewalk Closures a Last Resort!

Example of water-filled Jersey barriers used to create a protected pedestrian walkway

Example of water-filled Jersey barriers used to create a protected pedestrian walkway

We want your input on a new policy meant to make it easier and safer for people to walk in our growing city. Our department has issued for public comment a revised Director’s Rule on Pedestrian Mobility in and around work zones, and we’re taking feedback through
October 29, 2015.


Key components of the new rule:

  1. Sidewalk closures are a last resort—best practices to keep pathways open
  2. More detail to help ensure American Disability Act (ADA) compliance
  3. Emphasis on clear, well-maintained pathways and clear signage
  4. Standards on types of materials and placement required for pedestrian protection
  5. All work in the public right of way is covered, not just building construction

 

In general, the policy referred to as DR 10-2015 is meant to keep walkways open unless it is hazardous to do so.

Several questions have already come in about DR 10-2015:


Q – How does this new rule help communities?

A – The newly updated Director’s Rule on Pedestrian Mobility in and Around Work Zones has many benefits including:

  • Enhanced pedestrian safety
  • Improved pedestrian access
  • Clear expectations; clear pathways
  • Expanded authority to enforce

    Site of September 8, 2015 car accident on 2nd Avenue near Pike Street

    Site of September 8, 2015 car accident on 2nd Avenue near Pike Street

The new standards include eliminating the orange tube delineators known as candlesticks as an option for pedestrian walkways on arterials. This change alone could be life-saving, as the Jersey barriers were September 8, 2015 when a car crashed into them near a very busy bike lane along 2nd Avenue, near Pike Street. The driver was arrested for speeding but no one was hurt; the water-filled plastic barriers worked as designed.

 


 

Q – How does this rule help permit applicants?

A – The expanded rule will help permit applicants understand specific requirements for different scenarios: open walkways, reroutes, detours, corner work and scaffolding for example. It provides consistent standards to make project planning more predictable, stipulating how protected access is to be implemented and the materials to be used. It gives our partners in the construction industry a clear understanding of their responsibilities related to mobility impacts in the right of way.


Q – Does the proposed new rule apply to private or public projects?

A – The new rule applies to any project that impacts pedestrian mobility in the right of way.


Q – Why are you changing the rule?

A Simply: to protect pedestrians and maintain access. The standards support Seattle’s commitment to Vision Zero to end traffic deaths and serious injuries on Seattle streets by 2030. The effort CityConstructionis part of Access Seattle, an initiative to keep businesses thriving, travelers moving, and construction coordinated during peak building periods. As one of the fastest growing U.S. cities, we expect 60,000 new people and 50,000 new jobs in Seattle in the next 10 years —and a continued construction boom. The new rule brings best practices to an unprecedented volume of work zone impacts to the right of way.


Q – What do you mean by ‘sidewalk closures as a last resort’?

A – When, as a last resort, a detour is allowed this rule limits the duration of closures to the hours and days necessary to complete the phase of work that impacts access. Sidewalk closure requests in unique situations will be determined on a case-by-case basis, but only when there is no other reasonable solution. We will look at the specific work element and time required to complete, limiting closures to the actual work hours.


Q – Is the rule just a guide, or will it be enforced?

A – Director’s Rules are legally binding interpretations of existing Seattle Municipal Code (SMC). That said, our goal is not to “catch” builders doing the wrong thing, but to make it easy for them to do the right thing by providing safe pedestrian access to a defined standard. We will enforce proactively and responsively:

  • Proactive: Construction Management Plans (CMP) for all projects significantly impacting the right of way became a standard July 7, 2015, with a template and guide for contractors to use. The CMPs identify where and how pedestrian access is to be maintained. This pedestrian access will be a condition of permitting, with a plan required for each phase of construction.
  • Responsive: Street Use inspectors will review sites for compliance and enforce using Swift and Certain progressive enforcement. The enforcement procedures focus on providing clear direction to reduce infractions, and heightened attention on those with cumulative violations.

Q – What do you mean by expanded enforcement?

A – The previous rule only covered specific phases of building construction. The updated rule covers more right of way impacts, to include all of Seattle Municipal Code Title 15, Use of Streets and Sidewalks. Q – What types of jobs does the new rule cover? A – The revised rule outlines pedestrian mobility requirements for jobs that include:

    • Excavations and fills
    • Public utility work
    • Franchise work
    • Backfilling
    • Scaffolding
    • Large-scale cleaning and painting jobs for buildings

This is not an exhaustive list.


Q – Does this rule affect projects that already have closed sidewalks?

A – In preparation for this new rule, we have stopped issuing long-term permit renewals, with most now for 60 days or less. For projects with existing long-term permits not in line with the new standards, we will work with the project managers to transition project sites as much as possible.


Q – What about the cost to contractors? Are the new standards burdensome?

A – There is always cost associated with doing business, but safety is not a negotiable one. Safety is a shared goal. Consistently applied safety standards are good business because they reduce liabilities and make planning and compliance predictable. SDOT is not in the business of shutting down contractors. Between now and January 1, 2016, we will be working to educate builders, conducting workshops and outreach to bring contractors on board.


Q – Is the new rule final yet?

A – No. After 2 weeks of public comment final changes may be made with the rule expected to be finalized in November. We plan to implement the rule as of January 1, 2016.


If you would like to comment on the new SDOT Director’s Rule on Pedestrian Mobility in and Around Work Zones (DR 10-2015) contact LeAnne Nelson at leanne.nelson@seattle.gov or (206) 684-3897.City

The revised rule is the result of a shared vision for creating a safe, interconnected,

vibrant city for all!