“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.” - William Blake
by Rod Lotter
- The Capitol Hill Times -
There is very little doubt that Seattle is a growing city, and when a city grows, traffic tends to become a problem.
In 2011, Mayor Mike McGinn and the Department of Transportation spearheaded a campaign to address current problems on Seattle streets, as well as identify problems that would arise as the city grew even more. At the core of the campaign was the Road Safety Action Plan.
On Sept. 11, the mayor announced a new fiscal budget, which sets aside an additional $5 million a year for road repairs and maintenance to the current budget. Since early 2011, the city has spent $28.4 million.
The new funding breaks down as follows, according to the 2012 Road Safety Summit Action Plan:
•Arterial Streets: Increases the arterial major maintenance budget by 50 percent by adding $2 million each year to an existing base of $4 million.
•Chip Seal: Restores a previously eliminated road maintenance program by providing $1.75 million in 2013 and $1.82 million in 2014.
•Crack Seal: Allows SDOT to seal and better protect over 50 lane-miles annually by adding $250,000 in 2013 and $260,000 in 2014.
•Non-arterial Streets: More than triples the available funds for non-arterial street repairs by increasing funding by $1.15 million annually.
For the streets of Capitol Hill, this means filling the 20-some potholes that dot the arterials of E. Union, Madison, Pike and Pine Streets.
A larger goal of the plan is to make the streets safer for pedestrians, bikers and drivers. Annually, Seattle streets experience about 20 deaths a year, many of which could have been avoided with improved safety practices. Capitol Hill has experienced dozens of bike and car collisions over the last few years alone.
The end goal is to have zero deaths on the streets by 2030, according to Road Safety Summit Action Plan, which includes improved bike lanes and facilities, and more green boxes. According to a survey by the Road Safety Summit, inadequate biking facilities was the second most common complaint, after road conditions, in regards to the overall environment of Seattle streets.
Other than biking, there will be efforts to decrease impaired driving, enforce stricter speeding laws and create awareness programs for young drivers.
A large part of the overall initiative, according to the plan, is to “create a culture of empathy,” which may sound lofty, but the government feels is achievable.
According to the plan, a culture of empathy means “being aware of who is out there sharing the roads with you, and giving them the courtesy they deserve. It means knowing the rules of the road and making sure you’re following them no matter how you get around – not because you must, but because these rules help everyone be safe.”
If you live on the Hill, odds are you have felt this empathy a few times, but definitely not most of the time. Being on the streets in any capacity on Capitol Hill tends to mean almost being hit by a car at least once and witnessing a near free-for-all at every turn.
The overall fiscal budget was presented to the Seattle City Council by the mayor on Sept. 24. The council will consider the budget and a final draft will likely be announced in November.