Lakeview Blvd.’s missing sidewalk — a hazard and barrier to pedestrians

The E. Blaine and E. Howe Street public staircases, just one block apart, are among the longest and most heavily used in Seattle (about their history and use, click here). Unfortunately, at their lower end (on the east side of Lakeview Blvd.) there is no sidewalk to connect these staircases. (See photo below.) The missing sidewalk is a risk and barrier for the many pedestrians from throughout Seattle and beyond who use this area for commuting, exercise, sight-seeing, or to reach homes, businesses, schools, parks, or transit.

The missing sidewalk is especially needed by the thousands each week who use the E. Blaine and E. Howe Street public staircases that extend east from Lakeview Blvd. up Capitol Hill to 10th Avenue East, and west to Lake Union via the Park Department’s Howe St. public staircase through the I-5 Colonnade Open Space. Many enjoy these two staircases as an exercise circuit, including the block of Lakeview Blvd. that connects them.

Lakeview Blvd. is a principal arterial and a major walking and bicycling route to downtown via Melrose Avenue or the Lakeview overpass and to the University District via either Eastlake Ave. or Harvard and 10th Aves. It offers access to points north, south, east, and west. All the rest of Lakeview Blvd. has sidewalks on both sides, but for this one block on the arterial’s east side between the Blaine and Howe Street stairs, the sidewalk is missing.

To traverse the east side of this block of Lakeview Blvd., pedestrians must either walk in the traffic lanes on the roadway’s east side, or make two crossings of Lakeview to use the sidewalk on its west side. Either way, they encounter fast-moving arterial traffic, including from the I-5 northbound off-ramp. It’s one of the City’s worse sidewalk gaps, and a tragedy waiting to happen.

The Seattle Department of Transportation has studied installing 340 feet of 6-foot sidewalk, concrete curb and gutter, and a retaining wall. The retaining wall is needed because the hillside is gradually slumping across the curb into the roadway, forcing pedestrians further into the street. But motor vehicles and bicycles in the Lakeview Blvd. roadway are also being squeezed by the gradual landslide, and could face fatal consequences in the event of a major slide (as has happened in the past). Even without a sidewalk, a retaining wall is needed. As sliding already threatens Lakeview’s motor vehicle and bicycle traffic, not just pedestrians, the cost of the needed retaining wall should come also from SDOT’s main budget, not just from pedestrian funds.

The City of Seattle government has not funded engineering or construction of this needed project, but the sidewalk may get built if even a fraction of the thousands of people who use the Blaine and Howe St. stairs, speak up. Volunteers are needed to reach out to stair users and to help with a web site, e-mail list, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media; media relations; and liaison with other organizations and with SDOT and elected officials. If you have questions or would like to help in any way, please contact the Eastlake Community Council at info@eastlakeseattle.org. ECC is a neighborhood association founded in 1971.

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In the photo above, we are looking north on Lakeview Blvd. The Blaine Street stairs are at right with the block of missing sidewalk also at right. The Howe Street stairs come down to Lakeview Blvd. at the next utility pole to the north.