We’re proactively managing our assets to maximize our investment & keep you moving safely

Seattle stairway. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.

Summary 

  • Seattle is a vibrant and growing community. As more people move to the city there is higher demand for – and on – our transportation infrastructure. 
  • With proactive asset management, we invest in, maintain, and preserve our transportation assets.   
  • Investing proactively means we do more to preserve our assets by making smaller, incremental, and timely improvements. 
  • Conversations with you – whether in person, at open houses, or through online surveys – are an important part of our asset management commitment. These are opportunities for us to learn about your needs while discussing the work we do and the challenges we face. 

Seattle is a vibrant and growing community. As more people move to the city there is higher demand for – and on – our transportation infrastructure.  

A bus driving up the recently-repaved SW Avalon Way. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr.
A bus driving up the recently-repaved SW Avalon Way. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr. 

For example, more people means increased transit ridership and, in turn, a demand for more buses and for shorter travel times with fewer delays. More transit service and larger buses, with heavier electric batteries, help the City meet sustainability goals and respond to climate change. At the same time, these heavier vehicles traveling more frequently accelerate pavement deterioration on some of Seattle’s streets. Our streets were built at different times, sometimes by different agencies, and were not initially designed to carry the additional weight.  

Supporting access to safe, reliable transit while proactively managing pavement conditions is just one part of our work to balance the need for safe, equitable, and sustainable travel options. All modes of transportation rely on well-functioning assets. Sustainability is also about leaving our transportation infrastructure in the same or better condition for future generations.  

What are our “assets”? We maintain around: 

3,900 lane miles of streets   

124 bridges   

497 stairways

600 retaining walls (including seawalls)    

1,100 traffic signals   

194,000+ signs  

2,300 miles of sidewalk and medians  

32,000+ curb ramps  

38,000 SDOT-planted trees (plus, our Urban Forestry team helps maintain about 600,000 trees that we don’t own in the City right-of-way) 

7 million square feet of landscaped areas 

With proactive asset management, we invest in, maintain, and preserve our assets.   

Investing in asset maintenance and preservation means that we prioritize work to keep our infrastructure in good or fair condition. This way, it stays in better condition for a longer period of time.  

For each $1 spent on asset preservation, we can save $6 to $10 later because we extend the life of the asset and reduce how often we pay for costly repairs or replacements. This means an investment of $1 million can reduce our future costs by as much as $6 million to $10 million. This proactive approach allows us to stretch your dollars further and accomplish more with limited funding.  

In this way, proactive asset management is about applying the right treatment, to the right asset, at the right time.  

It is similar to how you might maintain your residence, your car, your bicycle, or even a pair of jeans! Rather than replacing these things after years of use, you may often choose to maintain these “assets” with little fixes over time and squeeze more life out of them! You change your oil to prevent engine failure, tighten your bike spokes to prevent your rim from warping, or fix your roof to keep your house from incurring water damage. You may even choose to sew or patch your ripped jeans (although we hear folks pay a lot these days for distressed denim) instead of replacing them.   

We all consider the risks that impact our safety and our personal belongings, and we make the best financial decisions to minimize our costs while maximizing the amount of use and benefit we get in return. Our approach to asset management is very similar. Our “preservation first” approach helps us reduce our overall maintenance backlog (outstanding repairs that must be done on our assets to keep them in fair or good condition), keeping our assets in better condition and for a longer period of time, while increasing the safety and transportation benefits returned to our community.  

Investing proactively means we do more to preserve (not repair or replace) our assets by making smaller, incremental, and timely improvements.  

You may see us repaving a street that looks fine, and wonder why we’re not repaving the street two blocks away that appears to be in worse condition. This repaving activity is a preservation treatment intended to maintain the pavement in fair or good condition. Preserving the condition of our “fair and good condition” our streets will save us money in the long run, which allows us to invest these “savings” in future years’ budgets to do the larger and more expensive project of repairing the poor condition pavement two blocks away. The challenge is to strike a balance between how much we invest in maintenance, preservation, rehabilitation, replacement, and new construction activities. This is a shared concern among states, counties, and cities across the country. 

We are also committed to holistic asset management. This includes coordinating our asset investments with utilities and local developers to minimize costs and disruption to travelers. We want to maximize the benefits we provide back to our community, and do so equitably by investing strategically in communities that have been underserved by public investment.  

Conversations with you –  at open houses, whether in-person or virtual, or through online surveys – are an important part of our asset management commitment. These are opportunities for us to learn about your needs while discussing the work we do and the challenges we face.  

In these conversations, and outside of them, we’re always looking to learn more about your transportation needs, what you need to travel safely and easily through your day, what barriers you face, and how transportation could make your life and your neighbors’ better. We look forward to continuing this conversation with you.