Why half the new sidewalk by Fairmount Playfield will be replaced

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

This started, as many WSB stories do, with an e-mailed question:

Why is the new sidewalk along Fauntleroy Way SW, by Fairmount Playfield, half concrete and half asphalt?


The sidewalk was installed this summer, two years after the removal of trees that left the old one cracked and bumpy. This is an especially bad place for that since this is a school-bus pickup/dropoff zone for nearby Fairmount Park Elementary, in addition to its frontage along a popular park in a densifying area.

There’s no obvious explanation for the mid-sidewalk material switch. But we went over for a firsthand look and noticed that where the concrete ends, it has a stamp: MOVE SEATTLE.


That, you’ll recall, is the $930 million levy passed by voters last year.

When we asked SDOT about the two-tone sidewalk, we learned that it’s related to a much smaller number: $90,000 – less than one-hundredth of one percent of the levy amount.

The explanation:

SDOT spokesperson Norm Mah first answered our question “why is half the sidewalk concrete and half asphalt?” with this information: “SDOT was able to replace a portion of the sidewalk with concrete and use asphalt temporarily for the remaining section to keep within budget. SDOT is planning to replace the asphalt section with concrete next year.”

So – we asked in a followup – there wasn’t enough money to use concrete for the entire project?

That’s not exactly what “keep(ing) within budget” means in this case, Mah replied: “With the budgetary constraints facing projects, our goal is to minimize project costs as much as possible. This sometimes requires doing small projects in phases. The statewide bid limit law restricts SDOT crews to projects that cost approximately $90,000 or less per year. Otherwise the project has to be sent out to bid, which can raise the cost and extend the timeline to deliver the project. To stay within the bid limit, we split the project in two phases – one in 2016, the rest of it next year in 2017. The city is aware that there would be some cost savings and efficiencies if we could mobilize the crew and finish it all at the same time. However, we are bound by the state’s law concerning limits on crew-completed work.”

And now you know.

36 Replies to "Why half the new sidewalk by Fairmount Playfield will be replaced"

  • Owen August 24, 2016 (12:58 pm)

    Splitting what is clearly a single project into multiple phases to get around competitive bidding laws seems a little sketchy. The applicable code appears to be RCW 35.22.260 (3), which states

    (3) In addition to the percentage limitation provided in subsection (2) of this section, a first-class city shall not have public employees perform a public works project in excess of ninety thousand dollars if more than a single craft or trade is involved with the public works project, or a public works project in excess of forty-five thousand dollars if only a single craft or trade is involved with the public works project or the public works project is street signalization or street lighting. A public works project means a complete project. The restrictions in this subsection do not permit the division of the project into units of work or classes of work to avoid the restriction on work that may be performed by day labor on a single project. 

    Those last two sentences (underlined) seem to directly prohibit this type of chopping up of a project.

    • newnative August 24, 2016 (1:24 pm)

      Very good find!  

    • Gatewooder August 24, 2016 (1:28 pm)

      Yes, potentially a violation… or “workaround” in city wonkspeak.  What bothers me just as much is the wasted money putting in asphalt that will be removed in just a short period.  Asphalt may be less expensive than concrete, but only marginally so.  This is something worth looking into further, it smells fishy to me.

  • JS August 24, 2016 (1:03 pm)

    Isn’t it usually cheaper to do it right the first time? I can’t really see where the savings is. They hire a crew to put in asphalt that will be torn up by another crew later, to put in concrete. ??? 

  • Rick August 24, 2016 (1:05 pm)

     Business as usual.

  • Cass August 24, 2016 (1:12 pm)

    In addition to the questionable legality mentioned above, this seems like a waste of resources!  How much extra will be spent to remove and dispose of the asphalt that doesn’t seem like it should have been there in the first place??

  • Space Dust August 24, 2016 (2:00 pm)

    Typical SDOT, start something and….

    I think SDOT needs to do some gardening along Harbor Ave….They planted the center median, They need to maintain it. Now it’s full of weeds.

  • sam-c August 24, 2016 (2:00 pm)

    Also like the dumb City policy of spreading money around here and there so everyone gets some $$$, and the money is spread really thin……

    (that’s why 26th ave sw or something  was voted in to get a bio-swale for a block or 2 (Bridging the gap) and puget ridge can just sit and dream forever about getting sidewalks, cause the project is too much money)

    • WSB August 24, 2016 (2:05 pm)

      Which bioswales do you mean? The ones in Westwood and Sunrise Heights are combined-sewer-overflow-control projects, which is King County, in lieu of a huge storage tank like Lowman Beach (which is a different CSO basin). There are also some roadside raingardens in South Delridge along part of the path of the greenway. And yes, there are many blocks in West Seattle that remain without sidewalks entirely, including much of Arbor Heights ..

      • Chris August 24, 2016 (8:50 pm)

        Wait… is Arbor Heights in West Seattle? [puts on helmet]

        it’s a joke!!

        • Joe Szilagyi August 25, 2016 (9:51 am)

          I love bringing up Arbor Heights sidewalks and hearing far North Seattle people lose their MINDS. “We’ve been waiting on sidewalks since the late 1950s since we were annexed!! How dare any other part of the city complain!!” 

          Then you remind them that Arbor Heights came in at the same time, and they’re like… “But we contribute more taxes!!!” 

      • sam-c September 14, 2016 (8:41 am)

        25th maybe it was, I mean .  25th and Findlay?
        sorry, that Delridge District council that I went to about 7 years ago, where they voted on BTG projects, was so long ago, I don’t remember.    All I know is that they were ranking/ voting bio-swales higher than sidewalks on a designated walking route to Sanislo.

  • Gene August 24, 2016 (2:07 pm)

    like someone else said- ” business as usual”!

  • sw August 24, 2016 (2:27 pm)

    Ugh.  Bureaucracy at its finest.  Spending more money than necessary to play by your own rules.

    I wish they had made the concrete portion the full width (realizing it would cost more $$), as it would have become zero maintenance and provided more stable surface area for school drop-offs.  I doubt the city will ever plant grass in the dirt areas, which will instead become a muddy and weed-infested mess.  

  • KISS August 24, 2016 (2:40 pm)

    Will that parking strip ever have trees again or do we just get to enjoy looking at the stunning chain link fence forevermore?

    • WGA August 24, 2016 (3:14 pm)

       SDOT does not have enough money in the budget for trees this year. Therefore they will plant stumps this year and next year pull them out for live trees.

  • dsa August 24, 2016 (3:41 pm)

    So maybe to satisfy the letter of the law, the city will let the asphalt sidewalk stay there and not get replaced anytime soon. 

  • William August 24, 2016 (3:49 pm)

    With all of the ethics law violations Scott Kubly, head of SDOT, has been faced with, violations of competitive bidding laws by his department seem minor.  the real question is what is our council doing?

  • wetone August 24, 2016 (5:04 pm)

    This practice is all to common in Seattle these days. The cost difference in materials is fractional as to what labor, truck,  heavy equipment and dump fees will be for removing, grading and forming one more time.  If the city can’t do the job right the first time then it should be left until they have proper budget. Mayor Patchwork and SDOT Kubly  are doing similar practices through out city and soon have this place in worse shape and more debt than before city pasted the billion dollar Move Seattle Levy. Look around people, streets are having temporary patches and little projects here and there but very little real permanent work, with zero accountability for stupid projects as this one and many more. Just be ready for more taxes in a couple years to so they have funds to redo and finish what their starting today.   

  • AT August 24, 2016 (6:04 pm)

    Ugh.  I was wondering about that, it looks terrible and unfinished, especially after ripping out all the trees.  What a waste!

  • Quiz August 24, 2016 (7:22 pm)

    Wow. So if doing the same job twice saves money, why not do the same job 5 times? We’d save tons of money!

  • Mark August 24, 2016 (9:07 pm)

    SDoT = spend dumb taxpayer $.  The City needs to be put on a diet.  The beaucracy is out of control.  King County DoT has learned to work lean do to right budgets.  And Kubly needs to be shown the door.

  • funw/#s August 24, 2016 (9:17 pm)

    Measuring from Google Maps, the recent concrete replacement is about 175 ft long.  At the full $90,000 limit, that works out to over $500 for each foot (in length)!  

    Another way to look at it:  Total length of both segments is 470 ft.  Volume of concrete is about 23 CY, so that’s three loads.  Say $6000.   Dispose of old sidewalk $5000.   Say crew of 4, 4 days = 128 hrs.  Say $35/hour.  Total is just over $15,480  for city crew.

    Bid a contract:  210 sq yd @ $150/sy = $31,500.  Including mobilization right around $35k.  Another $5k for contract administration, oversight and it’s about $40k to have a contract do the whole segment.

    Oops.  We are all human.   Hopefully someone learned something.  

  • CabanaMom August 24, 2016 (9:22 pm)

    I have a novel idea…why doesn’t SDOT leave the asphalt there without replacing it with concrete? Or wait 5+ years for the asphalt to wear out before replacing. It seems like such a waste to tear it out within a year.

    We certainly drive on roads that have sections of asphalt and concrete. Unless the asphalt is of an inferior quality…I’m just sick of the city wasting money.

  • 935 August 24, 2016 (9:50 pm)

    And this is the bureaucracy the Seattle Voter bought and sold their taxpaying souls for….

    You see – when you freely give away your (read: other people’s money) the fat cats live high on the hog. There’s just no need to be accountable. To anybody….Because you’re just going to do it again!

    Sigh….one day the lessons will find traction. Until then…..plan on bunching your knickers when you see the next “plan” your duly elected progressive saviors propose

  • Mark August 24, 2016 (10:52 pm)

    Funw the $35 hour does not account for City overhead that I have heard is 4 times, thus $140 per hour.  

    Regarding the asphalt it is functional and should remain until it wears out.  It is wasteful to remove it sooner.

  • hisf55 August 25, 2016 (7:41 am)

    What’s everyone complaining about??? It’s only money.

  • Marty August 25, 2016 (7:43 am)

    Common sense. Where has it gone?

  • canton August 25, 2016 (8:20 am)

    Announcing the new “director of walkabilty”

  • Vanessa August 25, 2016 (11:30 am)

    It still breaks my heart that all of those beautiful trees were cut down.  When they changed color in the fall, they were grand.  I get that the sidewalks were getting busted up….but it sure seems like there could have been a different solution……….

  • Pat August 25, 2016 (12:32 pm)

    Well Vanessa, as pretty as those trees were, they were also tremendous hazards. They were also a very poor choice for where they were. And in the last few years of their lives numerous branches of significant size broke off in windstorms, creating extreme fall hazards for anyone walking near them.

    Yep, they were pretty when they were healthy but they were no longer healthy, creating hazards, and really tearing up the walkway. We can only hope the city arborist will choose some better trees for this strip and that we get them. A number of trees were planted along Fauntleroy in the last 5 years so there is hope.

  • unknown August 25, 2016 (1:18 pm)

    I cringe every time I drive under the trees planted on 26th Ave SW between 116th & Roxbury when they’re soaked with rain and or snow!!! Next time you’re in the area take a look at them, if one of those branches came down on your car or a person walking it’ll hurt you bad or……….kill you.  :>(

  • RC August 27, 2016 (2:33 pm)

    Several years ago I watched a similar situation in front of my business.  They came out. Put up barriers. Two weeks later 3 trucks,6 guys, backhoe on trailer, 4X4 hole, two weeks later, same crew,backfilled with asphalt, two weeks later same crew, dig up asphalt, two weeks later, smaller crew, filled with concrete. Done. Two weeks later, repeat 20 feet to the north.

  • Millie August 27, 2016 (10:21 pm)

    Hate to be a cynic, however, this appears to be the “standard operating procedure” for  SDOT (specifically) and city agencies in general.  Most, if not all city projects, are over-budget and not on schedule.  Not sure why the City Council is not aware of these overruns and completion delays.  Could it be that project management/staff are not keeping Council members informed.  As voters, and ultimately,  payees ( voting YES for any and every property tax levy) for every City project, we need to hold both the Executive and Legislative branches accountable for expenditure overages and project schedules.  Where is our strength – the ballot box!

  • SickofSDOTcorruption August 29, 2016 (11:34 am)

    I wondered why the heck it was asphalt this morning as I walked this stretch of sidewalk to catch an overcrowded C line this morning at Alaska/Fauntleroy.  If you have to rip up the sidewalk to do side sewer work on your house property – you have to hire from a select few list of contractors “approved” by the city to match the concrete on the surrounding sidewalks and streets.  This should be ripped out IMMEDIATELY and the city should be made to follow its own list of rules & regulations.  The sidewalk should have been done right the first time unless they are trying to make some claim about “repurposing” the asphalt or was it more environmentally friendly to do something twice? Oh wait.  But, we are once again talking about SDOT lies & talking out of both sides of their proverbial mouth ($90k project budgetary limits, pul-leaze!). How could we expect better when headed by a transportation mafia boss like Kubly Con.  

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