Asphalt sidewalk / parking strip on 15th

Last month we posted about a new asphalt sidewalk on 15th Ave between 94th St and 97th St. This type of walkway isn’t as good as a standard concrete sidewalk, but it was an improvement that the community requested. According to SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan:

Seattle has approximately 12,000 street block faces that lack sidewalks. The number of blocks lacking sidewalks far exceeds the resources available to build them and SDOT only has funding to build approximately 10 to 20 block face equivalents per year.

SDOT looks for ways to maximize the impact of our funds by using less expensive construction materials like asphalt. It is not only less costly, but also can be placed faster than concrete, helping stretch our dollars further.

On 15th Ave NE between NE 94th and NE 97th streets, SDOT addressed the neighborhood’s desire to improve pedestrian accessibility and upgrade drainage infrastructure. We did so with a modest budget by utilizing asphalt for the walkway, and replacing and covering an old drainage culvert. SDOT also separated the roadway from the sidewalk with a landscaping strip, which will deter parking and improve the pedestrian walking environment.

Despite the best intentions, though, you still see problems like this:

Asphalt sidewalk used for parking

Vehicle parked on asphalt sidewalk

SDOT has not provided figures for the cost of an asphalt sidewalk, but construction costs for a standard concrete sidewalk can range from $40,000 to $300,000 per block. It’s likely that the asphalt sidewalk here cost less than half of what a concrete sidewalk would cost.

With so many sidewalks yet to be paved, lower cost installations mean more sidewalks get built faster. But would it be better not to spend anything than to spend on an asphalt sidewalk / parking strip? Is the new sidewalk better than what was there before, or is it a waste of funds?

What do you think?

Are asphalt sidewalks OK with you?

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3 Responses to “Asphalt sidewalk / parking strip on 15th”


  • I edge on the side of don’t bother, but I’d rather have an option that says “it depends if it is done well and given the right context”.

  • Curbs. The issue isn’t the asphalt, it’s the lack of curbs which define the pavement as a sidewalk. Asphalt curbs don’t help much as they’re neigh invisible, inviting parking and punishing those who accept. Painting the walks yellow with a No Parking grafik would be a cheap expedient, but likely to be ignored unless enforced which likely wouldn’t be popular with the neighborhood. And in the meantime the paint fades away while plants find a way through the asphalt. With the city considering expanding further into the suburbs, something along the lines of a 5% for pedestrians commitment needs to be pushed. That’s a number out of the air, but some fraction street repair and construction should be dedicated to sidewalk construction with a goal of sidewalks on all residential streets by the time next years kindegarders graduate from high school. Ok, medical school. It’s not like the goal will be met.

  • I’m torn on this project. I do think it’s better than nothing, but as NickBob points out, without any physical boundary between the road, the parking strip and the sidewalk, people are going to park there. Then again, given all the illegally parked vehicles I see on perfectly constructed sidewalks, curbs don’t seem to be much of an impediment for many drivers. I disagree, though, with NickBob’s suggestion that enforcement wouldn’t be popular with the neighborhood. After all, the project only happened because the neighborhood requested improved pedestrian access. The violators surely won’t like increased enforcement, but it sounds like a sizable portion of the neighborhood would welcome it. 206-625-5011 is the SPD non-emergency number. If it isn’t already in your phonebook, add it. And when you see a car parked like the one above, call that number, then press 2, then press 8, and tell the dispatcher to send out a parking enforcement officer. A few $30 reminders and some word of mouth will likely take care of most of the problem.

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