Fauntleroy Way work concludes: 2-tone paving explained, & more

As soon as SDOT announced the Fauntleroy Way road work – repaving, rebuilding, “rechannelizing” – was almost done, the questions began, including, why isn’t it all blacktop? We arranged to chat and stroll with SDOT project manager Jessica Murphy to get some answers as the work wrapped up.

(looking north across Fauntleroy at 42nd SW, foreground in shadows)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Now that the end of the Fauntleroy Way repaving/rebuilding work between Edmunds and Holly is here – and so are the “rechannelization” lines – new questions have surfaced (as have new features).

View Larger Map

SDOT explained along the way that the stretch of Fauntleroy covered in this $3+ million dollar project (first revealed here last October, with the lane-reconfiguration “rechannelization” plan first made public in November) is a three-section road: Concrete on each side, asphalt down the middle where a gap once existed with thoughts a streetcar track would be built.

When I sat down with SDOT’s Jessica Murphy – a West Seattleite, by the way – at a Morgan Junction coffee shop last week to talk about the project, she brought along a few more specifics about that history – the east section of the road was built in 1927; the west, 1949; and the last major work on the road, including the section where the streetcar track never got built, was 1984.

The roots of what you see today – some spots that are blacktop adjoining some spots that are not – are in 1984, when sections of cement roadway were overlaid in asphalt. It’s particularly noticeable stretching west from Fauntleroy/Graham (map):

Murphy says the asphalt overlay is not considered necessary any more – the asphalt doesn’t add any “structural benefit,” but does add cost — putting it over the west stretch, for example, would have cost $200,000 more, but “added no lifespan.”

That said, two points are worth noting: Once a road is overlaid with asphalt, she says, it needs to stay that way, in no small part because the utilities and other features are built to work with the road at that height (generally two inches over the concrete road base). Also, perhaps most notably, even though your eyes would tell you otherwise, nothing has changed in this project – the section where you see asphalt now is where there was asphalt before – the section where you don’t, didn’t have it. Over time, the two-tone look will soften, she says, adding that the black marks on some of the concrete, blamed on trucks driving over the “tack,” will go away too.

Asphalt itself is less expensive than concrete, and Murphy says it was chosen for the complete replacement of the center of Fauntleroy Way because they usually reserve new concrete-road construction for areas of heavy traffic loads like buses; here, she says, the “full-depth asphalt” center section of Fauntleroy — 10 inches of asphalt and about half a foot of crushed rock — should last 30 years.

Other questions have focused on why some parts — “panels” — in the road’s concrete sections were replaced and not others. “Most concrete is designed for a 40-year lifespan, but the weather here is relatively mild, and doesn’t go through a freeze/thaw cycle like the east coast.” Result, she says, some of the “panels” – the sections of concrete roadway – were in good shape and didn’t need to be replaced.

If you see cracks in panels, that does NOT mean it should have been replaced but wasn’t. As Murphy explains it, “Just because it has a crack doesn’t mean it’s failed. Technology has evolved. We now know some of the panel sizes used were too large. They cracked where they ‘wanted’ to have a joint” – the line where two panels connect.”

As we strolled northeast on Fauntleroy, she pointed out one such example on the south side of the street:

If you want to compare that to a cracked panel that IS failing and will need to be replaced, Murphy pointed this one out on the small section of 42nd SW between Morgan and Fauntleroy (map):

The visual difference in the concrete pavement surface, by the way, between old concrete and new concrete, has to do with the type of “aggregate” – stones – that’s used; Murphy says that while the aggregate often could be seen as stones in their original shape (still the case in so many stretches of old sidewalk as well), the rock is crushed before being mixed in nowadays.

Regarding the old concrete, we asked: If some of the panels that weren’t replaced are technically beyond their basic life span already, how long is the partly rebuilt road supposed to last before it needs more major work?

“This is a maintenance project, geared to a 15- to 20-year lifespan” – so theoretically, you won’t see another project like this, along this road, any sooner than the 2020s, but SDOT believes even the older panels that were left in place will last that long.

Murphy and Marybeth Turner from SDOT — who helps us find answers to many West Seattle road questions day in and day out and joined us partway through the conversation — said they’ve also been asked why the California/Fauntleroy intersection itself wasn’t rebuilt or resurfaced. Murphy says that section was repaved more recently than the rest of the Fauntleroy stretch involved in the current project, and “will be in cycle to do along with the rest of (southern) California … which is an ‘identified paving need’ but not currently scheduled.”

A significant stretch of northern California SW, you’ll recall, was repaved back in 2007-08; while it’s all asphalt-topped, under the surface it’s the same three-part structure as Fauntleroy Way is now – two concrete sides with asphalt in the middle.

But as this one is wrapped up, there are a few extra touches you might not have recognized would be part of the plan. For one, as originally revealed in x, the repaving has stretched westward to SW Holly (map), made possible when the bids came in lower than expected. “We were very excited to go (that far),” Murphy notes.

She also called our attention to some work that was being done the day we spoke:

That crew was putting in curb bulbs by the Fairmount Springs “island,” to facilitate a Fauntleroy Way crosswalk at Juneau (map), and also to make sure people don’t “fly,” as Murphy put it, down 40th; she says the end configuration will be a lot like nearby 39th SW.

Then there’s the concrete work along Fauntleroy on the north side of Zeek’s Pizza. Since the future RapidRide bus service is supposed to have a stop there, that section of the road now has a concrete section to withstand the weight of the buses; since RapidRide will follow California, not Fauntleroy, Murphy says that’s the only section of this project that “overlaid” the RR route.

As this wraps up, and then 16th SW (which we updated last week), you are not likely to see major SDOT work in West Seattle for at least a year — we asked Murphy if next year’s SDOT paving list includes major West Seattle projects; in a word, no.

So from here, once the final signs and barriers are gone, it’s up to drivers to decide if the rechannelizing of Fauntleroy done along with the paving is working for them – here’s a refresher on how it changed:

In public discussions before the decision was made late last year, SDOT reps reiterated that the road could be restriped if the new configuration turned out to be a disaster. (The work done to rebuild and repave will withstand any configuration, according to Jessica Murphy.) You can provide feedback through contact information at the bottom of this SDOT page.

34 Replies to "Fauntleroy Way work concludes: 2-tone paving explained, & more"

  • marty September 14, 2009 (4:31 pm)

    Nice to see the “right turn only” lane at California/Morgan heading toward the ferry dock. That will stop the jerks who want to sneak into the front of the line.

  • Brett September 14, 2009 (4:57 pm)

    Great, now that the Fauntleroy project is finished, maybe they can work on California between the Alaska Junction and…around the Rite Aid. It’s bad! I mean really bad!

  • iggy September 14, 2009 (4:59 pm)

    This is a copy of an email I sent to the Morgan Junction Community Association just this morning. Seems relevant to post here as well.
    When they started all the work at the Morgan/Fauntleroy intersection, including new wheel chair ramps, I was confident they would fix the problem with flooding in the intersection between the Tully’s and the Washington Federal Savings. Every time it rains, especially by the bank, the intersection floods. The storm drain is clear. Problem is that Fauntleroy where it meets California isn’t graded properly. Looks like the work is virtually done, and they’ve left the grading exactly as it was. Last Saturday, when it rained, you had to walk out into traffic on California or walk through a good 4 to 6 inches of water. I am a bit older and this is no fun. Further, I believe the wheelchair ramp would be inacessible. I suspect the city doesn’t have money to fix this, but it is a problem, especially in the winter when the real rains come.

  • Sage September 14, 2009 (5:02 pm)

    Depressing to read that a Fauntleroy streetcar was potentially in the works in 1984 and not even dreamt of now in 2009. Sigh.

  • WSB September 14, 2009 (5:05 pm)

    I don’t know that it was still under consideration in 1984 – the possibility once upon a time is why that center area was such relatively mushy material, filled long after the rest of the road – TR

  • WSB September 14, 2009 (5:08 pm)

    Iggy, there was some drainage work done in the RapidRide area alongside Zeek’s – I didn’t include it here but Jessica mentioned it – don’t know if that might help the problem? – TR

  • Bill Corrigan September 14, 2009 (6:09 pm)


    I think you left out a reference in this sentence. -Bill

    “For one, as originally revealed in x, the repaving has stretched westward to SW Holly”

  • old timer September 14, 2009 (6:48 pm)

    @ Fauntleroy & California, I noticed a new gigantic drain had been installed where that puddle used to form.
    The old tiny square drain is still where it was, but the new one seems better placed and more adequately sized to do the job.
    I hope that it will solve the standing water problem at that intersection.
    We should be able to tell pretty soon.

  • Steve September 14, 2009 (7:11 pm)

    I think the new lane configuration is great. Time will tell if it works for the volume of traffic but I love the space for bikes and driving feels so much safer than it did before with those narrow lanes.

  • Findlay September 14, 2009 (8:21 pm)

    Great, now we’ve encouraged the militant bicyclists to ride on a very busy road.

    The other day by Fairmont Park Playground, I saw bicyclists riding 2 1/2 abreast in the lane (far out into the traffic lane), giving the bird to any driver who got too close.

    Also, left turns by the old Huling to go to Safeway are much harder now since the cars back up into a much longer single file. Why no left-turn lane was provided for there is a mystery. More accidents waiting to happen!

    One project that has the stench of the Nickels car-hating regime…. Glad he’ll be gone soon!

  • Dreamland September 14, 2009 (8:57 pm)

    Well, now the Mystery of Hideous Paving has been solved. We’re from the southeast originally and couldn’t help imagining how aghast those folks would be if they saw the manner in which Fauntleroy was paved.
    This was extraordinarily informative and thorough. Well done!

  • kstineback September 14, 2009 (9:04 pm)

    i am still so dissapointed by this project. i love the bike lane going north, but will never come south on fauntleroy due to the panels and broken up concrete, which make it too dangerous to ride in traffic! i feel like bike safety would have been the number one reason to repave the west side of the road, because the panel seperations are exactly where the sharrows are – so dangerous!

  • Rumplekin September 14, 2009 (10:24 pm)

    Ah, sharrows! Should wear off about the same time as the truck tire marks!

  • kstineback September 14, 2009 (10:39 pm)

    @Findlay, sounds like an out of control biker, just like there are out of control drivers. The vast majority of bikers obey the rules of the road, please don’t judge us by someone’s bad behavior!

  • eigenwijs September 14, 2009 (11:34 pm)

    Findlay – do you mean turning left on to Edmunds? There is a left turn lane there now. I live in that area and no longer fear being rear-ended by an unattentive speeding driver when waiting to make a left turn.

  • sm September 14, 2009 (11:39 pm)

    I think the “rechannelizing” is ridiculous. This is my main route out of West Seattle – why would you create such a bottleneck?
    You might as well get cozy if you happen to be forced to stop and wait for the ferry to unload in front of you, funneling all of those cars out of West Seattle in one lane.
    Also, WHAT is going on with the timing of the light at the California/Fauntleroy intersection? yikes!

  • WSB September 14, 2009 (11:43 pm)

    I mentioned the traffic backups to Jessica and Marybeth and they were going to check but I didn’t hear back – will send a followup – it’s been a couple months since the backups started to happen southbound on California, north of Fauntleroy.

  • sm September 14, 2009 (11:50 pm)

    thanks, WSB!

  • mar3c September 15, 2009 (7:17 am)

    the “two-tone” paving is common in seattle. alaska st between 35th and california is also asphalt/concrete, as is all of westlake avenue on queen anne.
    findlay – if nickels hates cars so much, why did he kill the monorail? it would be whisking me to my job in ballard by now – whether the viaduct was standing or not.
    personally, i’m happy that traffic is quieter and slower through my neighborhood.

  • Jose September 15, 2009 (7:18 am)

    Are you serious? Seattle approves every zoning application for new condos in West Seattle, thereby increasing density beyond already-strained infrastructure levels – and then instead of simply repaving, they actually ELIMINATE A LANE (edit: TWO LANES!) from one of our major thoroughfares?!
    GENIUS! Pure genius!
    You couldn’t make this stuff up.

  • AJ September 15, 2009 (7:21 am)

    I feel Fauntleroy is much safer to cross now that I don’t have worry about somebody go fifty mph, and if they are going that fast it is in one lane.
    Thanks SDOT for making it better than it was!!!

  • sam September 15, 2009 (8:15 am)

    thanks WSB for the interesting story.

    the comment about cracks in the concrete not being a problem are interesting to me.
    there are some cracks in the concrete road on Delridge that have just gotten worse and worse over time. they make me think of plate techtonics and earthquakes. have never gotten out to measure them (don’t have a death wish) but some of the cracks seem to have a change in elevation of about 2 inches. it is especially bad going southbound just after Holden, next to the West Ridge Park apartments.

  • iggy September 15, 2009 (8:21 am)

    The flooding at the Fauntleroy/California intersection is is the crosswalks on Fauntleroy when you are crossing between the Tully’s and the Washington Federal Savings Bank. It rained last Saturday, and even with the new drain, the intersection flooded so that you had to walk into traffic on California to stay dry. The flooding is in the wheelchair ramps as well. The old concrete on Fauntleroy, has a definite dip. They did not regrade it, and I had expected they would. I wonder if it’s too late to fix this.

  • JEM September 15, 2009 (8:57 am)

    I think it is great and enjoyed my drive down Fauntleroy last night. Traffic was fine, bikers were fine. Everything is fine and dandy. It is bettter for all the folks who live along there, better for pedestrians, better for bikers, who everyone here seems to hate, and better for drivers too. It slows traffic down to the actual speed limit – imagine that. And if you are in such a hurry to get somewhere, why don’t you leave 10 minutes early and stop your whining. thanks.

  • lynne September 15, 2009 (11:28 am)

    I respectfully disagree with marty about the right turn only to “stop the jerks who sneak to the front of the line”. I have used the right lane as a means of going straight over California and have then merged appropriately when the lane ends. Why did that make me a jerk if the right lane was not right turn only? Having lived in Seattle for a short time I have noticed many opportunities for drivers to be more efficient with our roadways such as slower vehicles in right lanes and vehicles maximizing ramps for merging. In WS, there are numerous intersections with two lanes that are not designated as right turn only lanes. Regrets to Marty but as long as I abide by the law I’ll keep using the lanes as designated. Thanks.

  • John September 15, 2009 (12:09 pm)

    I can see/hear Fauntleroy from my back deck and this has improved things somewhat. Unfortunately there are still people using it as a speedway, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. I can’t believe there haven’t been more accidents on this stretch.

  • RS September 15, 2009 (1:38 pm)

    Lynne, that makes you a jerk if other people were backed up waiting and you pull right up to the light and then merge back into the lane after the intersection. Believe me, I can see it both ways, being a former Boston driver. But people are more polite here and get upset. I see people do this on Delridge coming off the bridge all the time. There’s a long line of traffic waiting to get through the light and people pull into the right lane at the Andover intersection and then merge back into traffic. It’s legal because it’s not a turn lane, but it’s a bit of a jerk move.

  • lynne September 15, 2009 (1:47 pm)

    RS – came here from Boston, too. GO SOX!

  • Mickymse September 15, 2009 (2:55 pm)

    RS – I think the point above is that it’s legal — and how the roadway is designed.
    Just because you and others don’t like it, doesn’t change the fact that this is how many roads around the city are configured.

  • RS September 15, 2009 (3:23 pm)

    Oh I get it that it’s legal and roads are configured that way. I just think it pisses people off. It’s totally legal to not merge into an exit lane until the last minute too. In Boston and other places that’s seen as some quality, efficient driving. Out here, people see it as rudeness and are likely to call those who do that out as jerks, as marty did in the first comment.

  • RS September 15, 2009 (3:23 pm)

    And GO SOX! :)

  • Paver September 21, 2009 (2:38 pm)

    Engineers love the idea of rebuilding every street in concrete, but that costs 5 to 7x what a project like Fauntleroy does (yet doesn’t last 5 to 7x as long). It makes good financial sense to fix up the existing street to squeeze some extra life out of what’s there. Jessica Murphy is the best project manager at the City of Seattle. Bar none.

  • DirtNap October 1, 2009 (10:52 am)

    I’m okay with the Channelizing. The two toned paving sucks and the structural and cost justifications true or not are BS. Remember when this project started a significant number of wheelchair ramps were put in incorrectly? From what I could tell it would have been 200k more to make Fauntleroy top notch, how much money was wasted in the onset to repair the ramp debacle. Could that have made up the difference?

    Bottom line is the intentions were great but the execution was poor. Ask yourself if this is the kind of product you would deliver at your job. All politics, budgets, requirements, blah, blah, blah aside I am betting most of us would have the conscience to find a better way.

  • whp October 6, 2009 (11:25 pm)

    Conscience doesn’t pave streets, DirtNap. Get thee out to Fauntleroy, take some measurements, put together a design and plans, estimate the cost, talk to some contractors, and get back to us on how your bold $200K estimate is going magically transform the street. Seriously, give it a try. You might gain a healthy respect for those civil engineers who turn very limited dollars into very functional infrastructure.

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