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The Price is Right

What’s the dollar value of a slab of sidewalk? What about a bike rack, or a tree?

Most people consider the initial sticker price and maybe the labor to install, but what about upkeep, depreciation, and obsolescence over the years? The reality is that many cities and departments struggle to track of their long list of assets, and are subsequently unable predict and budget for long-term costs.


SDOT owns a lot of stuff, everything from the big (bridges, streetcars, the new Seawall), to the small (traffic cameras, counters, networking devices), to the surprising (a Cold-War era air-raid siren). All of these assets, and their future costs, are detailed in our “Asset Status and Condition Report,” which values the current SDOT inventory at $20 billion.

That $20 billion figure is just a snapshot though. To improve long-term planning and spend scarce tax dollars wisely, in 2015 SDOT implemented an accounting projection technique known as “lifecycle costing.” This technique considers not only how much something costs upfront, but how much it will cost for the next 50 years, and helps us tie real world metrics to larger policy goals like sustainability or equity.

50 Year Upkeep Forecast

SDOT Assets 50 Year Cost Forecast

Our 50-year forecast shows a surge of costs in the late 2020’s and early 2030’s. This wave of spending need is driven largely by the expected replacement of our bridges, which will be hitting 100 years of operation. With a better understanding these costs, we can show the value of proactive maintenance to extend the life of the bridges, and save tax dollars in the long-term.

SDOT is committed to improving performance metrics and asset measurement – and sharing that with the public. In addition to the “Asset Status and Condition Report,” information is available through online dashboards like Performance Seattle (general department goals), the Capital Projects Dashboard (large projects), and the newly released Levy to Move Seattle Dashboard (levy-related deliverables).