Adding Sidewalks Shouldn’t Cost a Bundle

Sidewalks on one side of the street with landscaping features that help stormwater management can save sewer costs. Photo: City of Seattle
Sidewalks with stormwater management features can prevent harmful sewer overflows. Photo: City of Seattle

Even in some of America’s biggest cities, you’d be amazed at the gaps in sidewalk networks.

Most of Seattle has sidewalks, says Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog, but some of the more recently annexed sections of the city do not. The cost to fill in the gaps was recently pegged at a whopping $3.6 billion.

But Seattle planners are thinking hard about how to deliver essential walking infrastructure more efficiently. Here are some ideas their ideas for creating a complete sidewalk network on a budget from the city’s Pedestrian Master Plan, Fucoloro writes:

Some streets may need little more than a raised curb or line of parking stops to create a new dedicated walking space, as shown in these photos from the survey.

A cheap way to add sidewalks: partition off part of the street for sidewalks. Photos: City of Seattle

Other streets could get a sidewalk on just one side of the street that is integrated with gardens to catch and filter rainwater. A growing body of research shows that some of our most damaging stormwater toxins can be made much safer for salmon and other sea creatures just by filtering it through dirt. And the more rainwater we can keep from flowing into sewers, the more we can prevent harmful overflows that allow raw sewage to escape into our waterways.

And from a funding perspective, solving these problems is worth a lot of money to Seattle Public Utilities, making them a potentially great partner in creating safer streets that also retain and filter more rain water.

And to cut costs even further, the city is also implementing cheaper asphalt sidewalks that are dyed and stamped to look like brick. This lower cost will help the city build 250 blocks of sidewalk instead of the 150 originally planned if voters approve the Move Seattle levy.

Implementing these ideas will depend on voters’ approval of the $900 million Move Seattle levy, or Prop 1, on the ballot tomorrow.

Elsewhere on the Network today: BikeSD considers the role of bike advocacy in low-income neighborhoods. And NRDC Switchboard reports on a panel discussion at Rail~Volution about transportation equity.

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