Sylvan Way road work: Why the bike lane on bumpy road?

When SDOT confirmed the extended Fauntleroy Way bike-lane work one week ago, you may recall they also mentioned Sylvan Way. Just got this from Stacy, who’s concerned about the Sylvan work:

I wanted to share with you correspondence I received from SDOT regarding the road work on SW Sylvan Way. I sent SDOT an e-mail regarding my concerns about the recent work on Sylvan Way SW.

While I am very excited that they’ve added a long overdue bike lane and much needed re-striping (especially with bad weather approaching), I expressed my disappointment that this work was completed on a street which desperately needs resurfacing and/or at a minimum urgent pothole repairs – which I believe are dangerous to both bicyclists and motorists. I also found it interesting that in light of the lack of funds, most of this work was completed last Sunday, which has to cost SDOT an arm and a leg (have they never heard of time and a half on Sunday)?

As Mr. Hathaway pointed out, I plan on contacting the pothole hotline until the problem is addressed. With the increased number of condominiums and homes in the area, I can’t be the only person who uses this street on a daily basis. Hopefully more community members will also call this hotline.
(reply that Stacy received from SDOT)

Thank you for contacting the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) regarding the bike facilities being laid down on Sylvan Way SW from Delridge Way SW to 35th Ave SW & SW Morgan St.

SDOT recognizes that portions of Sylvan Way SW are in poor condition. Let me provide some background on how Seattle prioritizes its paving needs, and then directly address where Sylvan Way SW stands in the queue.

On November 7th, 2006, voters passed the Bridge the Gap Levy (BTG), which provides new funding to address Seattle’s basic transportation maintenance needs. BTG is designed to address a backlog that has over $300 million in deferred street maintenance. These are streets like Sylvan Way SW and others nearby, where the road conditions indicates a need, but no funds have been available for years to provide re-pavement.

Unfortunately, it has taken a long time to accumulate this maintenance backlog, and it will take some time to work it off. SDOT cannot meet all the needs immediately, so work is prioritized. We recognize Sylvan Way SW as a need; however, it is prioritized below other major arterials which have higher traffic volumes. In 2009, SDOT has rehabilitated First Avenue South, Second Avenue South and Fourth Avenue South, as well as Fauntleroy Way SW. Major corridors on the list from 2008 include Boren Avenue, 15th Avenue West, and First Avenue South. To make sure we get the most benefit out of the funds available, we focus on repairing the busiest streets first, taking into account condition, cost, transit, volume of traffic, and several other criteria. Our goal is to deliver the greatest area of improvement to the highest number of users.

Even though Sylvan Way SW is not in optimal condition, it is an important connection and there is still a benefit to cyclists by providing the facilities. Installing bicycle lanes and sharrows on Sylvan Way SW is part of a larger effort to implement the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan which was adopted in the fall of 2007. The plan calls for installing over 400 miles of new bicycle facilities. There are many bicyclists who prefer to use Sylvan Way SW since it provides a very direct east/west connection. These new bike lanes & sharrows will benefit these bicyclists.

If you are a cyclist considering the use of Sylvan Way SW, we recognize that there are many different types of bicyclists with varying skill and comfort levels. If you do not feel comfortable riding on Sylvan Way SW, there are alternative routes. You may want to look at our bicycling guide map which can be found on our web site at

In the mean time, SDOT will continue to make spot repairs along Sylvan Way SW as requested and identified. You can request pothole repairs to specific locations by calling the SDOT hotline 206-684-ROAD (7623) or visiting


James Hathaway, Manager
Street Maintenance Division
Seattle Department of Transportation

12 Replies to "Sylvan Way road work: Why the bike lane on bumpy road?"

  • AJ October 16, 2009 (3:59 pm)

    The bike lane area is not that bad. It looks like they did some repairs before they striped it. The rain has washed a few rocks into the lane.
    I did notice the speed of the cars has slowed down, I did’t think a paint lines could have that affect.

  • OP October 16, 2009 (4:03 pm)

    “Why the bike lane on bumpy road?”

    Answer: Watching cyclists take headers over the handlebar thanks to a pot hole provides a bit of levity in a driver’s commute. (Relax, I’m kidding…)

  • Tom October 16, 2009 (5:46 pm)

    Joking about people getting injured. Hilarious. Wanna throw in a little child abduction “humor” and sexist “light banter” just to round things out?

  • Brian October 16, 2009 (6:30 pm)

    Real funny OP.

    ::rolls eyes::

  • Ken October 16, 2009 (9:13 pm)

    Let’s point out a few things.

    This road is busy. This road is one of the primary plow routes because it is a bus route and one of the few places to cross the ridge. It is also the only way out of Highpoint north section that is not an unplowed hill when it snows.

    This road like the other cross ridge routes in the area, is selectively improved where the developers were required to and otherwise not at all. The downhill on the developers side has one drain at the bottom. The other side has none. The pavement will start to be eaten out again by the end of this week and it will start breaking up by mid November.

    This happens every single year.

    As always, the sections where the city of Seattle is the owner, are in the worst shape and actually in danger of washout into longfellow creek.

    But the city will never do paving or curbing where there are no taxpayers to ding for the improvement.

  • what October 16, 2009 (10:07 pm)

    SDOT is just doing their part to keep east WS and west WS divided.

    but in seriousness, the response mentions alternate routes. I haven’t looked at the link, but if you are on a bike, an alternate to Sylvan is going to be quite a few miles to the north or south. and steeper. well, maybe not steeper than Morgan down to California from 35th. but there aren’t a lot of east west connections and the ones that exist need to be in good shape

  • CB October 17, 2009 (12:17 am)

    When will they finish Fauntleroy? It’s only half done.

  • coffee October 17, 2009 (11:47 am)

    what do you mean fauntleroy is only half done? It is complete.

  • WSB October 17, 2009 (12:05 pm)

    I was wondering if perhaps he meant the Fauntleroy bike lane work that was the subject of the original report in which SDOT let us know about Sylvan Way … south/west of Morgan Junction. We’ll be driving through to see if that’s indeed not done, as SDOT had said it would only take a week or so – TR

  • dawsonct October 17, 2009 (12:52 pm)

    Heysoos, Ken, we, the taxpayers, ARE the city! This is simply a relatively small example of what this 30ish year push-back against civic responsibility has wrought. Nationwide, states and communities have been strangled for funding and have reduced services and delayed maintenance and upgrades to our infrastructure, and it’s now coming home to roost. I hope we learn our lesson sooner than later that deferring problems only exacerbates them and makes it more expensive.

    Imagine the renaissance in our Nation if we stopped dumping billions of dollars into bottomless Middle Eastern rat-holes in support of global petrochemical corporations.

  • Fodder October 17, 2009 (10:54 pm)

    “To make sure we get the most benefit out of the funds available, we focus on repairing the busiest streets first,…”

    And spending money on paving curbs, ripping them out, paving them again, etc, etc

  • Stacy October 20, 2009 (4:03 pm)

    Wow….11 comments! This is what I love about W. Seattle and why I sent my issues with SDOT through the West Seattle Blog. For me, it was about seeing some responsible action instead of sitting on the sidelines and watching. For all of you who drive down Sylvan, please help me in using the pothole hotline. All of us have been exposed to the waste associated with government spending. What I saw last Sunday (while it was a huge improvement to add a visible bike lane) was government waste. Having this work completed on a Sunday was costly and wasteful. Having to replace the bike lanes and re-striping is an unnecessary waste. I think those of us who use this road would benefit more from repairs than anything else (including cyclists). Thank you! Stacy

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