SEATTLE — Seattle will receive $25.6 million from the federal government to help improve safety for walkers and bicyclists in the city’s industrial areas south of downtown, a spokesperson for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Monday.
The focus on the car- and freight-heavy neighborhood is a reflection of the dangers in that part of town, where sidewalks often end, curb ramps are unusable and bike lanes don’t exist. In the last three years, nearly 20 people have been killed in Sodo, including Robb Mason, who was hit and killed on his bike near the lower West Seattle Bridge; and Gan Hao Li, who was killed while riding his bike on the sidewalk.
The funding comes from the Department of Transportation’s Safe Streets for All grant program, which pulls money from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden in 2021.
“Fatalities on our roads are increasing at a historic rate,” said Cantwell, alluding to the preliminary count of 745 traffic deaths in Washington in 2022.
The federal dollars will buoy ongoing city work, including repairing and replacing curb ramps, which the city is required to upgrade as part of a 2017 settlement with a local disability rights organization. The city’s grant application to the federal government included funding for more than 100 locations it pegged as needing new ramps, push buttons and a head start for pedestrians crossing the road. It will also help fund improvements to 117 intersections, where nearly half of serious and fatal pedestrian collisions occur, according to the city’s grant application.
The grant will fund 1 1/2 miles in new sidewalks, including on a seven-block stretch on South Holgate Street between First and Eighth avenues south. Busy stretches along Fourth Avenue South and First Avenue South will also receive new sidewalks.
It will also fund 4 miles of protected bike lanes, including on dangerous stretches for riders on Airport Way South, Highland Park Southwest and Beacon Avenue South.
Up to 90% of the money will go to areas considered underserved by the city of Seattle.
“This ‘Safe Streets’ grant means we will accelerate efforts to improve and innovate our sidewalks and streets, especially in underserved and disproportionately impacted communities,” Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement. “From calming traffic on high-crash streets to helping families safely walk and bike to school, we must do everything we can to reverse the heartbreaking trend of people being injured on our streets.”
An additional roughly $9 million will go to 16 communities in Washington to help them stem the rising number of traffic deaths, Cantwell said in a separate announcement.