The city’s proposed 2012 would enact cuts at SDOT that would defer stairway maintenance, according to a KOMO news report.
Last year’s budget dedicated over $1 million for stairways, including maintenance and funding from the Bridging the Gap levy. This year, however, $200,000 may be cut from SDOT’s stairway budget. The cuts would impact maintenance, including eliminating two positions – a stairway design and inspection engineer, and a stairway construction worker.
The potential cuts would mean that the city would no longer perform regular stairway inspections and would instead rely on existing assessment to prioritize improvements and maintenance.
This year’s SDOT budget includes funding from three separate programs for maintaining and rehabilitating city-owned stairways.
According to John Buswell, Manager of Roadway Structures, over $200,000 is budgeted for stairway maintenance. This includes routine repairs and approximately 70 stairway inspections. “Typical repairs may be the replacement of a damaged rail section, repair of a broken stairway tread, or damage following a winter storm.”
The remainder of the funding is for rehabilitating stairways that are beyond simple repairs. More than half of the remaining $900k comes from the voter-approved transportation levy Bridging the Gap, which is funded through 2016. According to Buswell:
Often we are able to completely replace a stairway, adding new features that meet the current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards for stairways. This work will usually add up to 75 years of additional useful life to the stairway.
Seattle has over 480 public stairways. Keeping them in good condition is a challenge, but they are an important and unique component of the city’s transportation infrastructure.
Great City posts an update on the Streets for All Seattle campaign. The city council approved a budget that includes some increased funding for pedestrian needs, though not as much as the mayor had proposed.
Streets for All Seattle puts it all in context.
The mayor’s proposed budget, which includes funding for pedestrian projects through additional parking fees and taxes, is being reworked by the City Council. PubliCola covered the council’s discussion and decisions to reject funding for these projects.
The council agreed to raise parking rates, but not as high as the mayor had requested, and without parking fees on Sunday. The council also agreed to raise the commercial parking tax, but not nearly as high as the mayor had requested. The decisions by the council were not unanimous and some council members fought for maintaining the Walk Bike Ride program funding in the budget:
“If we accept these cuts, we will be pushing back [the pedestrian and bike master plans] even further,” Licata said. “I would encourage council members to think again about whether the [parking tax] could be nudged up a bit to take into account some of these really pressing needs.” O’Brien added that viewed in the context of a $300 million-plus transportation budget, the $20 million proposed for pedestrian and biking programs “is really just a drop in the bucket. … It’s hard to tell the public that these are our top priorities.”
After the council agreed to cut the commercial parking tax, the mayor released a list of projects that would have to be cut. Funding for the pedestrian master plan would be totally cut, as well as for the complete streets program, and red light cameras, along with numerous other transportation projects and services.
This Tuesday night at City Hall is the last public hearing for the city’s 2011 budget. Mayor McGinn’s budget proposal includes about $2 million for pedestrian projects next year, including more sidewalks, curb ramps, walking/biking trails, stairways, and pedestrian lighting.
There is some opposition to the funding sources for these projects as funds will largely come from increased parking rates. There is concern that the increased parking fees will keep people (and their money) away from downtown Seattle’s businesses. The Stranger examines what the effects might be of increased parking rates and suggests that increased downtown parking rates will be good for businesses.
The City Council appears apprehensive to support this budget with the increased parking fees, and Dan Bertolet at Publicola calls on the City Council to lead:
Unless they can propose a realistic and equivalent alternative source of funds for Walk Bike Ride projects, how can council members possibly claim with straight faces that they believe it’s important to create walkable, transit-rich communities in Seattle? (The recently approved $20 license fee is slated to fund about $2 million in Walk Bike Ride projects starting in 2012.)
The change we need will never happen until we start spending serious dollars on the right things, and the reality is, $5 million per year for Walk Bike Ride projects is only a meager first step. But new funding requires either new taxes or cuts—either of which is bound to piss off someone, somewhere. Where does that leave the city’s leaders? Well, it means they actually have to lead. And to do that, they might have to upset the status quo.
However, it may require a strong show of support to embolden the council enough to support the mayor’s budget. Feet First is encouraging people to come out to the final budget meeting:
City Council needs to hear from you about protecting funding for pedestrians in this year’s budget!
Your voice is crucial to the decisions that are being made about the budget.
The final budget meeting is this Tuesday at City Hall, in the 2nd floor City Council Chambers. Sign-in is at 5 pm and the hearing begins at 5:30.
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With five stairway improvements underway by SDOT this year, a reader was wondering about SDOT’s policy about lighting these stairways.
Aside from the Wilcox Wall stairs (8th Avenue in Queen Anne) and maybe one or two stairways on Magnolia, most all the stairs that I recall walking in Seattle are unlighted. That’s usually not a problem in the summer, but once winter comes around the lack of lighting combines with overgrown vegetation and a lack of regular sweeping to make most of Seattle’s stairways a bit treacherous and downright creepy.
One of the stairways under construction this year will receive lighting – the stairway at Ferdinand Street that provides a connection to Martin Luther King, Jr Way. However, the city’s annual budget determines how much SDOT can spend on stairway lighting, and this amount is “very little,” according to SDOT.
When possible, SDOT tries to fund lighting along with other maintenance projects. “So often, these separate programs, Lighting, Stairways and Sidewalks are combined to save money in the long run.”
For example, SDOT says “It makes sense to excavate for installation of lighting conduits and pole foundation before constructing a new stair or sidewalk.”
It is not clear, however why the Ferdinand Street stairway improvement received lighting while the other projects did not. This decision may have been based on factors such as pedestrian traffic, length of stairway, vegetation in the area, crime statistics, and ability of neighborhood funding. Once lighting is constructed by SDOT, Seattle City Light performs maintenance.
With the city facing a budget crisis, Mayor Mike McGinn has announced his budget, which includes quite a few cuts. The budget also includes additional funding for the pedestrian master plan, including more sidewalks, crosswalks, stairways, and pedestrian lighting. It also includes funding for more Summer Streets events.
Streets for All Seattle had been campaigning for more funding for the pedestrian master plan and it is no surprise that the mayor has supported that to an extent. However, in a year with service cuts, it may be hard to sell the city council and taxpayers on a budget that gives more money towards alternative transportation. PubliCola has additional coverage of these budget items here.