Innovative Solution in South Park Saves Trees and Improves Walkability

Three blocks of grand maple trees on 8th Ave S near the South Park Community Center provide critical tree canopy and a sense of place for the neighborhood.  Unfortunately, these trees were planted in a narrow planting strip, so their roots have significantly damaged the sidewalk and made it difficult for folks to get around.

fig 1 severly uplifted sidewalk

Severely uplifted sidewalk due to tree roots.

King County and the City plan to implement a long term solution to these tree and sidewalk issues in the next few years, so SDOT’s objective in 2016 was to complete interim repairs to improve safety on a relatively small budget.  Luckily, we also had a valuable resource: 14’ driving lanes on 8th Ave S.  That’s wider than we need even for buses and trucks.  This opened possibilities.

fig 3 8th ave S had very wide driving lanes

Wide driving lanes on 8th Ave S.

Throughout Seattle, SDOT is looking at existing pavement in new ways.  By using low cost investments such as paint and planter boxes, we’ve reprogrammed street areas into curb bulbs, sidewalks, and public plazas. With this creative perspective, we gathered feedback from the South Park community on ways to reconfigure 8th Ave S to increase safety for people walking, preserve trees and address other priorities.  SDOT crews completed the newly configured three blocks of 8th Ave S this summer.

The updated 8th Ave S keeps street parking on both sides as the neighborhood requested. We narrowed driving lanes to 10.5’, freeing up space to add a 6’ wide protected walkway along the curb, and we closed the damaged sidewalk.  As an added benefit, narrower driving lanes tend to slow traffic speeds.

fig 5 Walkway separated from traffic

Walkway separated from traffic by parking lane, curbing and posts.

The walkway is protected from traffic by the parking lane and curbs and posts installed by SDOT crews.  We also extended the pedestrian space at intersections and reduced the length of the crossings by creating curb bulbs using posts and paint.

In other locations SDOT fully painted these curb bulbs, but in South Park we used a more innovative design using polka dots, which are more eye-catching to drivers.  We worked with South Park leaders to match the colors of the polka dots with the colors of the South Park Neighborhood Association logo.

fig 6 Final prod pkg lane, walkway

fig 7 Polka dots S Park colors

 

Feedback from the South Park community has been positive about this added sense of place for the neighborhood, the preservation of its stately trees and a safer place to walk.

 

 

 

For more details, check out the 8th Ave S 2016 Improvements website, including SDOT’s presentation to the community.