If you HAVE to drive in snowy Northeast Seattle, here’s how (UPDATE)

Whether you’re putting your trust in the National Weather Service or UW Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Cliff Mass, there’s no denyin’ that there’s gonna be more snow in the next couple days.

In case you need to travel to and/or from Northeast Seattle during the snow, you’ll want to know which roads are being kept clear by Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) crews, and which are not.

NE portion of SDOT's snow route service map - click to enlarge

To the right is a portion of SDOT’s snow map, focused on Northeast Seattle (full map here; 810 KB PDF). There are three different street service levels assigned to those arterial streets which are the busiest, connect neighborhoods with downtown, are used by transit and public safety agencies (police, fire), and reach schools and hospitals.

These different levels are to let users know which routes are being serviced and what conditions to expect. They are not prioritized — road servicing is ongoing at all levels as needed.

The different levels as shown on the map are:

Level 1 (yellow) -ALL lanes bare and wet
Level 2 (blue) – ONE lane each direction bare and wet
Level 3 (green) – Curves, hills and stopping zones treated

You can find Seattle’s Winter Weather Readiness and Response Plan here, which includes road treatment descriptions, facility and fleet information, links to city communication tools, and more.

As for tips on how to drive in the snow, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has a few to read, or watch on YouTube.

Take Winter By Storm’s website has lots of checklists you can use to be fully prepared both on the road and at home.

And then there’s PEMCO Insurance’s “The right way to abandon your car in a snowstorm.” You may want to print that one out to stick in your glove compartment, just in case.


UPDATE (Wednesday, 9:43 AM): City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw just tweeted out a great link for those us us curious about road conditions in Northeast Seattle AND citywide.

SDOT's Winter Weather map page (static screengrab taken Wednesday morning) -- click to go to the site

SDOT’s Winter Weather map shows which streets have been treated and/or plowed, and how long ago they were last serviced.

Different parts of the city can be selected from a dropdown menu at the top-right of the page (“Select Neighborhood”). Different road service levels are shown in different colors, as well as the different types of service (liquid de-icer vs. plows with and without salt spreaders).

Nifty map aside, we recommend drivers check out road conditions locally for themselves before heading out.

Significant chunk of 15th Ave NE to be closed on Saturday

The second phase of the 15th Avenue NE Reconstruction has begun, and that means the action is heading further north.

Tomorrow, Saturday, June 18, a significant portion of 15th Avenue NE will be closed. Traffic headed east-west will have one lane each way on NE 50th St, and north-south traffic will detour to University Way NE.

View 15th Avenue NE closure on Saturday, June 18 in a larger map

The SDOT Traffic Advisory:

A contractor working for the Seattle Department of Transportation will close 15th Avenue NE between NE 45th Street and NE Ravenna Boulevard on Saturday, June 18, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for street improvements. General traffic and buses will be detoured to University Way NE. One lane in each direction will be maintained on NE 50th Street. The closure will allow the contractor to install new drainage facilities in this area.

Beginning next week, the contractor will begin removing and replacing the pavement on 15th Avenue NE between NE 50th Street and NE 55th Street. One lane for each direction of traffic will remain open.

This work is part of the second phase of the 15th Avenue NE Reconstruction Project, between NE 45th Street and NE 55th Street.

For more project information, please visit the project website at: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pave_15thavene.htm

Ask Ravenna Blog: What’s in a bioswale?

Inspired by a reoccurring column that our neighborblog, Roosiehood, writes, I am introducing the “Ask Ravenna Blog” post.

The premise of these posts is this: You, dear neighbor, send me a question, and I’ll do my best to find the answer.

Today’s question comes from southern Ravenna resident, Pamela, via twitter. She lives quite close to the Seattle Department of Transportation’s construction zone at the Scramble (NE 55th St/Ravenna/22nd Ave NE) and was wondering…

…what’s going to go in in the “bioswales” and who’s going to maintain it.

I emailed Construction Communications Officer, Bob Derry, who forwarded Pamela’s query to Jessica Murphy, the manager of the 15th Avenue NE Reconstruction Project (which the Scramble project is a part of). Here’s what she had to say:

The bioretention facilities will be maintained by Seattle Public Utilities as they are a stormwater infrastructure. The plants being used are as follows:

Kelsey Dogwood (cornus stolonifera)
Wetland Sedge (carex obnupta)
Baltic Rush (Juncus balticus)
Daylilies (hemerocallis)
Catmint (nepeta mussilinii)
Geraniums (geranium macrorrhizum)
Sword ferns

There are also going to be some new trees – Hogan cedars, black maples and tupelos all maintained by SDOT Urban Forestry.

There you are, Pamela (and anyone else who was wondering about bioswale contents and maintenance).

Have a question? Ask Ravenna Blog! Email me at rebecca@ravennablog.com.


Ask Ravenna Blog BONUS: The SDOT’s Urban Forestry program’s website has a lot of great information for residents, including street tree planting procedures, a tree pruning guide, traffic circle volunteer information, and much more.

Also, if you have any comments, concerns or accolades for the Scramble construction crew, Construction Communications Officer, Bob Derry, can pass them along for you. You can find his contact information near the bottom of the 15th Avenue NE Reconstruction Project website.

Night Paving at the Scramble: The Movie

If “night swimming deserves a quiet night*,” night paving utterly DESTROYS it.

Over the past two nights, road construction crews have been laying fresh asphalt over the road surface of the “Scramble” (NE 55th St/Ravenna Blvd/22nd Ave NE) in the southeast portion of the Ravenna neighborhood.

This work is a part of the ongoing project to upgrade this intersection and make it safer for cars, bicyclists and pedestrians alike. It’s also a part of the ongoing 15th Avenue Reconstruction Project happening to the west.

View The Scramble in a larger map

Moving the repaving of the road surfaces to the evening has no doubt been a boon to daytime motorists, but quite the curse to the local residents who are trying to sleep. To get a sense of what these folks are putting up with, I dragged urged my brother (and fellow Ravenna resident) to accompany me to the construction site to document the process for all to see.

For a more true-to-life night paving experience, I urge you to play the following video of last night’s night paving with your volume cranked to 11 and a hot bucket of tar under your nose.



For a look at “Scramble” progress in the daytime (and the project’s final design), check out this post from May 18.


*My sincere apologies to Mr. Stipe for that one.

Checking in on the “Scramble” construction (so you don’t have to)

You know that phrase, “It’s gonna get worse before it gets better?” Well, it describes the state of the “Scramble” (NE 55th St/Ravenna Blvd/22nd Ave NE) perfectly right now.

The top layer of most of the road in the area has been removed (part of the repaving project that began last year on 22nd Ave NE), detours are in place, and construction vehicles and workers are EVERYWHERE.

Yesterday night, after construction was over for the day, I dragged took the family on a tour of the area to share with you the current state of the project.

Here’s the final design again, to remind us where the project is ultimately headed:

Final design plan for the "Scramble," courtesy SDOT - click to view full size

There are two segments to the video, which I have illustrated on the Google Map below (starting points indicated by the markers; blue first, red second). The progress on the northern bioswale can be seen in the first segment, the southern in the second.

View Scramble Drive video routes in a larger map


Like I said, the footage above was recorded AFTER construction was finished for the day. During the day, the area is very, very congested. I will even go so far as recommending that you stay out of the area until after construction is finished.

Here’s what’s on this week’s to-do list for the Scramble (courtesy the Seattle Department of Transportation):

  • Repair concrete base pavement on NE 55th St, and Ravenna Ave NE
  • Repair asphalt base pavement on Ravenna Ave NE (Note – Southbound Ravenna Ave NE will be detoured on Wednesday and Thursday May 18th and 19th to accommodate this work)
    Upcoming night work: May 23rd and 24th
  • The contractor is scheduled to do asphalt paving on NE 55th St between 25th Ave NE and 22nd Ave NE the nights of Monday and Tuesday, May 23rd and 24th. This paving work will be done between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. (Note – this work is weather dependent and will be rescheduled in the case of rain.)

More information on this project (and the ongoing 15th Avenue NE Reconstruction Project) can always be found here.

Ravenna “Scramble” road work for this week (April 25-29)

Construction continues at the intersection known affectionately* as the “Scramble” (NE 55th St/Ravenna Blvd/22nd Ave NE).

Final design plan for the "Scramble," courtesy SDOT - click to view full size

Work slated for this week includes (via a Seattle Department of Transportation project update):

  • Dig bioretention swale in south bulb
  • Install rockery in south bulb
  • Install plants (approximately 600 units) in south bulb
  • Reconfigure roadway lanes in preparation for work on the north side of the intersection next week

No weekend work is planned.

Those of you looking for your bus stop in this area will find it temporarily relocated to NE 55th St & Ravenna Pl NE.


*not by pedestrians

Roadwork at the “Scramble” to begin the week of April 4th

UPDATE (Thursday, March 31, 8:30AM): Chelsea Funis with EnviroIssues, and working on the 15th Avenue Reconstruction Project, has sent along an updated project plan graphic (which I have replaced my old one with below). Looks like the improvements for the north side of the intersection found funding! More great news for the users of this crazy mash-up of an intersection.


I wrote back in late August 2010 about two local road improvement projects slated to start in the new year: The 15th Avenue NE reconstruction, and the work on the intersection of 22nd/Ravenna Ave/Ravenna Pl/54th/55th (AKA the “Scramble”) in southeast Ravenna.

Work on 15th Avenue NE has been going strong since January, starting with the southern end of 15th Avenue NE in the University District. (You can see how the project is progressing and sign up for weekly email updates here.) The Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) goal is to finish up at the intersection with NE 55th Street by the end of the year.

How did the funding come about for the “Scramble” improvements? Just like with the 22nd Avenue NE repaving project of last year, the SDOT was able to fund another smaller, nearby project through the bidding process for a larger one.

The "Scramble," with street names

From the email notice (sent out March 25th):

During the week of April 4, 2011, the Seattle Department of Transportation will begin work to improve and repave the intersection of NE 55th Street/Ravenna Boulevard NE/22nd Avenue NE near Ravenna Park. The work is scheduled to be complete in June 2011. The improvements include repaving NE 55th Street from 22nd Avenue NE to 25th Avenue NE, reconfiguration of the intersection to make it safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, new curb bulbs, pedestrian ramps and restriped crosswalks, and a new bike lane on NE 55th Street. Two new bio-retention areas will also be added in the new curb bulbs to improve drainage in the area.

The intersection will remain open during construction, but drivers and pedestrians should expect temporary lane closures, posted pedestrian and bicycle detours, and parking and loading restrictions. Drivers should consider using alternate routes to get to nearby destinations.

Final design plan for the "Scramble," courtesy SDOT - click to view full size

For more information, visit the SDOT’s NE 55th Street/Ravenna Boulevard NE/22nd Avenue NE Intersection Paving and Improvement Project website.

15th Avenue NE Reconstruction Open House scheduled

We all survived the NE 45th Street Viaduct Reconstruction Project. But there’s another BIG road project coming in early 2011 that we should all get informed about.

From an SDOT email:

Beginning in January 2011 the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will reconstruct most of 15th Avenue NE in the University District between NE Pacific Street and NE 55th Street. The roadway needs to be reconstructed to maintain an efficient and safe travel corridor for vehicles, pedestrians, and transit.

An open house to help neighbors learn more about the 15th Avenue NE Reconstruction Project is now on the calendar for Wednesday, December 8, at the University Heights Community Center (5031 University Ave NE), from 4-7 pm.

This project will be completed in phases, a block or so at a time (from NE Pacific St up to NE 55th St), and is projected to wrap up in October of 2011.  That is at least 10 months of construction on 15th Ave NE. You now have your motivation for attending the open house.

15th Avenue NE Reconstruction homepage

For more information on this project, visit the 15th Avenue NE Reconstruction Project site here.


In related news, the contractor for the project has been selected (from same SDOT email):

SDOT recently awarded the construction contract for the 15th Avenue NE Reconstruction Project to Gary Merlino Construction, the lowest bidder. This contractor is experienced with the kind of work required for this project and has recently completed similar reconstruction projects in downtown Seattle.

And, because you can never start a project like this soon enough, some utility relocation work along 15th Ave NE will occur in December. Some southbound lanes south of NE 43rd Street will be affected.  Puget Sound Energy will be notifying property owners of service impacts before work begins.

15th Ave NE and the Scramble – Local Road Work for 2011

The NE 45th Avenue viaduct project is almost done. Huzzah! Construction is due to be completed on September 10th, just in time for the first Husky football game the next day.

There are a few more viaduct projects to finish in October and November — lighting installation, finalizing the line striping and pedestrian markings, and replanting the surrounding area — but the detour will be no more, and life will return to normal…

…until January of next year, when two new construction projects are headed our way.

The Big One: 15th Avenue NE Reconstruction – NE Pacific Street to NE 55th Street

I’m sure we can all agree that the surface of 15th Avenue NE is a pothole-riddled disaster, and the increased traffic from the viaduct detour route isn’t doing it any favors.

Happily for us, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has plans in the works to reconstruct most of 15th Avenue between NE Pacific Street and NE 55th Street between January and October of 2011.

Project area for the 15th Ave NE reconstruction, courtesy SDOT

This popular arterial will be FULLY RECONSTRUCTED between NE Pacific Street and NE 50th Street between January and September, while the stretch between NE 50th Street and NE 55th Street will just get a repaving. Intersections at NE Pacific Street, NE 45th Street, and NE 50th Street will not be repaved as this was done more recently.

And there’s more!  From the SDOT’s 15th Avenue Reconstruction Project website:

Other improvements include:

  • New curb ramps and curb bulbs to improve pedestrian mobility
  • Sidewalk widening at bus zones (bus bulbs)
  • Drainage upgrades
  • Installation of a new marked crosswalk at NE 41st St
  • New northbound left turn lane at NE 42nd St
  • Upgraded street lighting system
  • New electrical infrastructure for future transit improvements
  • Transit improvements including
    • North to west turn restriction from 15th NE to NE 45th during some or all of the day
    • Expanded bus stop waiting areas (bus bulbs) at two locations
    • Bus stop consolidation where stops are too close together

All great stuff. But the area is going to be a general mess during the construction. Trolley wires will be turned off on weekends to accommodate construction needs. This means diesel buses will be traveling through the area instead. There will always be access to residences and businesses for pedestrians, but rerouting and/or detours could spring up. Vehicles will definitely be affected: No street = no street parking, and access to parking lots and garages will be affected as well.

The Wee One: The 22nd/Ravenna Ave/Ravenna Pl/54th/55th “Scramble”

Just like with the viaduct and the 22nd avenue NE repaving project, it seems as though the SDOT can fund another, smaller, nearby project through the bidding process for the 15th Avenue NE project. And this one should make pedestrians breathe a sigh of relief.

Here’s what the area in question looks like now:

The "Scramble," with street names

Street names removed, pedestrian "no-man's land" highlighted

And here are the current construction plans for the area (click image to open a larger version in a separate window):

Current "Scramble" construction project plans, courtesy SDOT

Two items of particular note in this graphic:

  1. The BIG NEW CURB on the south side: To me, this piece is the key to the whole project. Pedestrians will now have a solid place to stand and be seen as they prepare to cross the intersection.  Cars will have a very distinct turn to and from Ravenna Pl NE. This is SO MUCH SAFER than the microscopic gravel no-man’s land that sits at that spot right now.
  2. The “Pending Funding” area on the north side: Project Manager Jessica Murphy did not have high hopes that the funding would come through on this part, unfortunately.


I am very excited about both of these projects, but speaking both as a pedestrian and a driver, I really look forward to unscrambling the “Scramble.”

For More Information

For more information on these projects, visit the main 15th Avenue NE Reconstruction page and the accompanying FAQ page.

An open house thrown by the SDOT detailing these projects and their effects on the community will happen sometime this November or December.

Funding for these projects comes from the Bridging the Gap levy passed by Seattle voters in 2006.

You can see a specially-crafted Google Map of the “Scramble,” and scroll around all you please, right here.

Many thanks to Project Manager Jessica Murphy at the Seattle Department of Transportation and Kristine Edens from EnviroIssues for stopping by the August Ravenna-Bryant Community Association meeting and sharing this information.

UPDATE: Email update from the SDOT says that the projects will be advertised for competitive bids this month (September). Schedule remains unchanged.