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SDOT Best of the Month | November’s Behind-the-Scenes Projects, Roadside Chats, Scooter Updates, Holiday Stay Healthy Blocks, & More

SDOT's Roadway Structures crew. Photo Credit: SDOT

In this SDOT Best of the Month, we’ll highlight some of (non-West Seattle Bridge!) projects that made news – and some that didn’t. 

Our crews are working around the clock – around the city – to keep you moving safely. Here are a few big accomplishments that didn’t make it into our blog this month. 

Roadway Structures’ Concrete and Timber teams repaired the Spokane St Viaduct, working 27 hours straight in shifts until the work was done! 

Roadway Structures crew on the Spokane St Viaduct in November.
The crew on the Spokane St Viaduct. Photo Credit: SDOT.

The Spokane St Viaduct is an elevated structure built in 1943 that starts near Airport Way and runs west to East Marginal Way. This structure has had various upgrades and additions over the years, and the roadway surface has required many repairs. Minor damage to the roadway surface can be fixed with an overlay –  2 inches of cement/asphalt applied directly onto the existing surface – rather than a complete replacement, which saves time and money.  
The overlay on the Spokane St Viaduct chronically develops potholes, so the Roadway Structures crew repairs them as quickly as possible. This time, many potholes developed close together, which required a complex repair.  

The team decided to use a brand-new method to fix them quickly. This process consisted of: 

  • Hydro demolition: Crews used extremely high-pressure water to remove both sound and deteriorating concrete. This causes less damage to the structure and results in a longer lifespan.   
  • Powerful suction: Once most of old damaged material was blasted away, an eductor truck used powerful suction to remove the debris.  
  • Placing new concrete: The next step was to place the new concrete, which has unique characteristics that prevent future damage, increase strength, durability, and flexibility, reduce permeability, and help it to dry quickly.  
  • Sensors: New sensors in the concrete communicate with a smartphone app, allowing crews to watch the strength develop in real time. This made it possible to get cars back on the road and on their way as fast as possible. 

The crew worked incredibly hard to make this massive repair possible! 

Our Urban Forestry Team extended the life of 12 beautiful trees in Pioneer Square! 

Two images. Left image has text that says "Before" and shows a tree trunk with roots pushing through sidewalk grate. Right image has text that says "After" and the same tree is shown without the grate and the roots intact.
Before: London Plane tree in Pioneer Square thriving despite limited space.
After: Same tree (dry) after grate removal and installation of the flexible porous surface.
Photo Credit: SDOT

Over time, tree grates must either be expanded or removed to allow unhindered tree growth. There are times when our trees grow into the grate before we can address the issue. We’d like to think that all of our trees are overachievers, but some really do “grow the extra mile”!  

Twelve trees along Occidental Ave S, between S King and S Jackson Sts, are a great example of tree overachievement! Unfortunately, this required work on our part to preserve tree health and safe walking and rolling routes. 

Our recent project extended the life of the trees by expanding capacity for growth while making the walking surface more aesthetically pleasing and safer for pedestrians. We partnered with the One City Center Pedestrian Project and worked with the Pioneer Square Preservation Board. These partnerships provided funding and capacity for a contractor to remove the in-grown grates and install the approved color and type of flexi-pave requested by the Preservation Board. 

Two images. The left image is crews removing tree grates. The right image is the tree stump with half the grate removed.
Left:  Brian Holers and Mike Oliver of Root Cause carefully remove ingrown tree grates. 
Right:  Partially removed grate performed using a special metal cutter. 
Photo Credit: SDOT.

Using a special cutting tool, the grates were carefully removed to limit tree damage. Then, the flexi-pave, a reclaimed material from recycled tires, was installed to bring the tree pit to the same level as the adjacent sidewalk. The best part is that the material is porous, so it looks like asphalt but actually allows water to penetrate the root zone! 

Earlier this fall, we discussed a few Safe Routes to School Projects Near Rainier Ave S. We’ve been making moves on this work! Read more below. 

Wing Luke Elementary   

An intersection with a sidewalk and curb ramp is shown.
Near Wing Luke Elementary, a new sidewalk and curb ramp are complete.  

We prioritized this location to fill a gap in the sidewalk and urban trail network, enabling kids and families to walk safely to Wing Luke Elementary School by the time it reopens. Since June, we completed a new sidewalk, a midblock raised crosswalk on S Kenyon St, and a new connection to Chief Sealth Trail.  

Rainier Ave S and S Rose St  

A person crossing the street on a new crosswalk, and walking up a curb ramp.
At the intersection of Rainier Ave S and S Rose St, crews have finished pedestrian safety improvements.  

We completed several improvements that will make the Rainier Ave S and S Rose St intersection safer and more comfortable for everyone. New intersection elements include extended sidewalk corners, new crosswalks, added parking on S Rose St between Rainier Ave S and Wabash Ave S, upgraded curb ramps, and left turn lanes. We also completed some prep work for the next phase of improvements. Ss early as next year, we will install a traffic signal at this intersection.  

S Kenyon St at Wolcott Ave S and 52nd Ave S  

Sidewalks and curb ramps shown in a neighborhood - S Kenyon St near the intersections of 52nd Ave S and Wolcott Ave S.
The current phase of work on S Kenyon St near the intersections of 52nd Ave S and Wolcott Ave S is wrapping up.  

Earlier this fall, we started making improvements along S Kenyon St at 52nd Ave S and at Wolcott Ave S. It was a continuation of work that began in 2019 with new planting strips and sidewalks. This year, we made curb ramp and drainage improvements, as well as upgraded sidewalks. We identified some issues at the site and couldn’t complete all work, so after a revised design is approved, crews will be returning as early as January to finish work on drainage, curb ramps, and sidewalks.  

We posted some very notable stories on our blog this month, too! In case you missed it: 

Roadside Chat with Matthew Howard on Race and Mobility  

Among other topics, Matthew studies how historical events shape the African American identity and experiences, in both literature and life. He started at SDOT on April 1, 2020 and is working with the Street Use Communications team. We sat down with Matthew, who shared with us how he hopes his work on transportation and more broadly, on issues of mobility, will empower Black people and provide deeper insight for how race and mobility affect social change. Matthew’s Roadside Chat was published in three installments. Please read the first and second installments, too!  

World Day of Remembrance is a time to remember those lost and reinforce our commitment to safety and health for all. 

Sunday, November 15, marked the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, an annual memoriam adopted by the United Nations. This day is an important reminder for all communities across the world of the obligation and duty we have at all levels of life and governance to reduce fatalities on roads. While much of our communication at SDOT is focused on of the safety measures we take each day, traffic fatalities are shared tragedies across the globe and challenge we must all confront and do better to prevent, together. On this day, and every day, we recognize loved ones in our community who have lost their lives while traveling on the street. While there is heartbreak in these remembrances, there is also an opportunity for renewed commitment and focus on the critical path ahead for all of us.  

Scooter Share Update: All three operators have now launched! Please keep the rules of the road in mind when riding. 

Our bike and scooter share program gives Seattle residents and visitors another clean, climate-friendly transportation option to reach their essential jobs, take COVID-responsible trips to their local café, get to a grocery store, pick up take-out from local restaurants, or simply get to where they need to go.  Back in September, we announced the three highest-scoring scooter companies in our scooter share application process: LINK,  Wheels, and Lime. We’re now pleased to announce that all three companies have received their permits and have launched operations in Seattle!  

Stay Healthy Special Editions: Streetsgiving & Rock the Block 

In November, we offered two additional, easy opportunities to close off your block to help you and your neighbors stay active while remaining physically distant. On November 3 – Election Day – we added a registration-only option so people could try out a Stay Healthy Block on their street. Then, in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday, we offered an easy way to set up one-block closures from Wednesday, November 25 through Friday, November 27 – or, in other words, to celebrate Streetsgiving! 

*Streetsgiving /strēt ˈɡiviNG/ noun: the act of giving thanks for having public-right-of-way to exercise and play in while staying 6-feet apart.  

Our Best of the Month blogs are planned for the last weekday of each month. Stay tuned!