This fall SDOT replaced the uplifted, crumbling sidewalks along most of the 900 block of 34th Ave with new, flat, smooth sidewalks. The project is on 34th Ave, south of E Spring St, across the street from Madrona Playground, and just south of the Madrona business district. You may know it simply as “the block diagonally across from Cupcake Royale.”
About 35 years ago nearly 100 Red Sunset Maples were planted along 34th Ave between E Pike and E Cherry. These trees are now too large for their narrow planting space next to the sidewalk, so their roots often lift up and damage the sidewalk. SDOT has done many spot repairs, or “shims” to the sidewalks but some sidewalks are beyond the point where we can continue such fixes while preserving the trees in such a narrow growing space.
The result was a damaged sidewalk that limited access for everyone, especially people using strollers and wheelchairs. This is an important walking corridor because it’s along a bus route; leads to the neighborhood business district; and connects to schools, the library and parks.
Staff from SDOT’s Sidewalk Repair and Urban Forestry units determined that the best plan for the long run was to rebuild the sidewalk and remove nine trees on this block (and replace them with 18 new trees nearby) so that the trees do not damage the new sidewalk. In a perfect world, we would never remove trees, but in some cases there is just not enough room in the right-of-way for the sidewalk and the tree to co-exist. When SDOT removes a tree, we replace it with two trees, and plant them as close to the removed tree as possible. In the long run, we have a repaired sidewalk that will last a very long time, and we have trees planted in the right place with enough space for them to thrive.
SDOT was also able to preserve one tree at the corner of the north end of the project by pruning the roots out of the way of the new sidewalk and “meandering” the sidewalk around the tree to provide it with more growing space. Again, the result is a new sidewalk placed a safe distance from uplifting tree roots and a tree in the right location.
Another long term benefit of the project was the total rebuild of the bulb-out of the sidewalk to better accommodate a tree in the long run. Like the rest of the block, the original bulb-out had a very small planting space for its large tree. This tree was too close to the sidewalk and was causing sidewalk damage. The new bulb-out has enough space to provide ample room for a tree to grow, so we now have a new tree on 34th Ave in a large tree pit where it could grow for decades without damaging the sidewalk.
On 34th, we improved mobility for all to get to bus stops, parks, the library, schools, local businesses and an ADA parking space. We were also able to manage our tree resources to preserve what we can and plant new trees in locations where they are best suited. These are building blocks of a walkable, healthy, and vibrant community.