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“Why is this Sidewalk Closed?” Getting Answers while Getting Around Safely!

Example of a sidewalk closure around building construction in the Central District. Photo credit: Jeanné Clark.

We all depend on sidewalks to get around, so it can be frustrating when a sidewalk we often use is closed – especially when it isn’t clear why. Since sidewalks are part of the public right-of-way, a permit is required to close the sidewalk, and it is typically related to nearby construction work.

Our goal is to make sure that people who use the sidewalk can get around safely and use detours to avoid any heavy machinery, construction equipment, or other potential hazards, while giving the permit holder the space they need to safely complete their project in a reasonable timeframe. We also require that permit holders meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in terms of accessibility around their work site, and we adhere to these same rules on our projects.

Typically, we expect permit holders to keep sidewalks next to job sites open with temporary changes for the safety of people passing by. Depending on the stage of the project, however, this isn’t always possible. During demolition or excavation work at a construction site, for example, it is safer to close the sidewalk entirely. No matter the type of closure – whether full or partial – the permit holder is expected to clearly indicate an alternate route nearby.

Watch this short video we co-produced with Rooted in Rights to educate contractors and other people working in the right-of-way about the importance of maintaining a safe space for people to travel through construction sites. These tips aren’t only useful for wheelchair users, they help make sites safer for everyone!

How do I know if a sidewalk closure is permitted?

There are a few ways you can check and see if there’s a permit for work in the area.

First, we require permit holders that will be working for more than a week to post weather-resistant, legible signage either at or near the closed sidewalk. The signage should indicate the following information:

  • the Street Use permit number
  • the duration (time frame) of the closure
  • the contact information for the permit holder

Second, you can view our Project and Construction Coordination Map to see if there’s work taking place in the area. Simply enter the address or intersection in the search field in the upper left corner and the map will center on that location. If projects have been registered in our mapping system, you’ll see them on the map. By clicking on the red markings (these indicate construction projects), a sidebar with the project details – permit number, duration, and contact information – will open on the left side of your browser. Please note: projects outside of urban centers/villages and construction hubs may not be shown on this map.

What if I need to report a closure that I think is unpermitted?

Unfortunately, sometimes signage gets damaged or is lost or stolen and it makes it hard for people who want to use the sidewalk.

If you encounter a sidewalk closure that you think is unpermitted, where signage is missing, or where a safe alternate route for people is not clearly indicated, please report it to our customer service team at (206) 684-7623 or through the Find It, Fix It app.

Our projects also close sidewalks when needed

  • In addition to permitted private development and construction by other public agencies, our capital projects and street maintenance work often require sidewalk closures around the city.
  • Our aim is to be a good neighbor and minimize effects while completing necessary work.
  • We follow the same best practices outlined above, in terms of maintaining access where possible, providing clearly signed detour routes, and communicating upcoming closures with nearby neighbors and businesses.
  • Some of this work is carried out by our crews, and other projects by our construction contractors whom we hold to the same standard. As noted above, sometimes signs fall down, are damaged or stolen, or sidewalk detour routes need to be corrected.
  • If you have any questions or concerns you wish to share with us, please contact us at (206) 684-ROAD [7623] or email us at Thank you.

A large building under construction in the University District of Seattle. A large orange barricade and smaller sidewalk closed signs are next to the project site fencing. Large trucks and equipment are in the background, with homes and buildings to the left side.
Example of major building construction and a sidewalk closure in the University District. Photo: SDOT.