Seattle sidewalks in disrepair to be prioritized by City Council

Dec 18, 2023, 5:30 AM | Updated: 8:50 am

seattle seahawks...

(Photo courtesy of SDOT)

(Photo courtesy of SDOT)

The City of Seattle unanimously passed legislation that would help create new and repair existing sidewalks throughout the city. Councilmember Tammy Morales, representing Seattle’s District 2, sponsored the bill.

The legislation will require the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to install a sidewalk or fix deficient sidewalks along the street during major paving projects. This legislation will apply to all projects that cost more than $1 million. SDOT’s director will have the authority to determine if full compliance with the requirements is not possible on any given project. SDOT will also have to give annual updates to the council about their progress.

More on Seattle’s roads: Dangerous drivers create difficult commute for Seattle biking community

“Sidewalks are essential public infrastructure that provides a public good and enables mobility for everyone regardless of age, ability, or income,” Councilmember Morales said in a prepared statement. “Investing in sidewalks means investing in our whole community.”

Minor repaving projects, referred to as pavement “spot improvements” as well as routine pothole repairs completed by city street crews, would not be covered by this change in city law.

Morales also credited several organizations — including Disability Rights Washington, Smart Growth America, Commute Seattle and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways — for helping get this legislation passed.

Nearly a quarter of Seattle’s streets are missing sidewalks, according to SDOT. At the current annual rate of sidewalk construction, the department estimated it would take 407 years before every Seattle street had a sidewalk. North and South Seattle lack sidewalks the most and both see disproportionately high numbers of pedestrians and cyclists being killed by vehicles.

More on dangerous road conditions: Research finds Fall is the most dangerous season for drivers

This legislation, decreasing the thousands of city blocks without sidewalks, pairs with Mayor Bruce Harrell’s Vision Zero proposal — a plan that would end traffic deaths and serious injuries on city streets by 2030.  In Seattle, more than 10,000 crashes occur annually, resulting in an average of 28 people losing their lives and nearly 180 people seriously injured, according to SDOT.

Additionally, according to a 2021 audit, SDOT found nearly half of the sidewalks in the city are in a “fair” or worse condition.

The bill creates a new policy prioritizing sidewalk creation and improvements in areas where pedestrian movement is impaired by the absence of sidewalks; where sidewalks would provide access to schools, parks and transit; that are very dense; and equity-priority areas where people are at high risk of displacement.

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