Costs and Outcomes of Seattle Sidewalk Program

Move Seattle included a promise of 250 blocks of new sidewalks and pathways. But costs are much higher than predicted and the low-cost pathways are minimal improvements for pedestrians.

2 minute read

January 26, 2019, 9:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink

Street With No Sidewalk

SvR /

Ryan Packer reports on that status of sidewalks as part of the Levy to Move Seattle, a $930 million levy approved by voters in 2015 to fund transportation investments throughout the city. The sidewalk program included a target goal of 250 blocks of permanent sidewalks and low-cost pathways.

Due to rising cost estimates, Packer says the number of sidewalks and pathways has changed and now only 120 blocks will be permanent sidewalks, down from 150 blocks:

Increased costs are the reason that SDOT [Seattle Department of Transportation] needed to reconfigure the ratio of low-cost sidewalks to traditional ones, but the program cost numbers overall are pretty concerning for pedestrian advocates. Despite the original estimate of $350,000 per block used in the Pedestrian Master Plan, the current plan for the 250 blocks is to spend $380,000, on average, per block, despite a majority of the blocks constructed in the plan being low-cost sidewalks, which had an original estimate of $100,000 per block.

Packer says the shift to low-cost pathways is problematic since the vast majority of pedestrian injuries and deaths occur on main arterials, which need permanent sidewalks.

In his article, Packer also takes a closer look at the quality of sidewalks and pathways constructed during 2016 and 2017, many of which are on blocks that had existing sidewalks. He finds that generally the low-cost pathways are not separated from the street and do not offer protection for pedestrians. 

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