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West Seattle safe streets archaeologists unearth long-lost sidewalk

Screenshot from the video. Image shows a person holding a pickaxe standing in the uncovered pathway.
Screenshot from a West Seattle Bike Connections video about unearthing the path.

Safe streets archaeologists in West Seattle made an astounding discovery this month, unearthing a long-forgotten sidewalk and path connecting the Duwamish Trail to some greenbelt trails off Highland Park Way SW.

While waiting for city plans to help ease the negative impacts from increased traffic on Highland Park Way SW due to the West Seattle Bridge closure, neighbors Jodi and Craig started to suspect that the nearby greenbelt may have swallowed a sidewalk many years ago. So they headed out with a shovel and struck concrete (gray gold!) several inches down.

So folks from the Highland Park Action Committee, West Duwamish Greenbelt Trails and West Seattle Bike Connections worked together to excavate the old path, which is gravel in some places and concrete in others.

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“While we’ve been waiting for SDOT and SDON to reveal a glimpse of their neighborhood traffic plans and engage us in discussions about biking and walking improvements for the neighborhoods most affected by the West Seattle Bridge closure,” Don Brubeck of West Seattle Bike Connections said in an email, “several people from Highland Park Action Committee, West Duwamish Greenbelt Trails Group and West Seattle Bike Connections have being doing DIY improvements on Highland Park Way. We uncovered a long-buried and forgotten sidewalk that links the West Duwamish Trail to the trails in the greenbelt that go up to South Seattle College and other trailheads.”

New sidewalks can cost millions of dollars per block, so these neighbors just unearthed a public good that is very valuable. How cool is that? Big thanks to everyone involved.

Of course, the forgotten sidewalk is woefully unfinished, lacking accessible ramps or a quality crossing at W Marginal Way. There is not even a connection to crosswalks at the intersection, which suggests that even the engineers who designed the intersection did not know the path was there (or they knew and didn’t care).

Screenshot from the video. Image shows a gap between the end of the path and the crosswalk. Text: Crossing at West Marginal Way. Beware fo traffic turning onto HP Way.
Screenshot from the video.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Lee Bruch said members of Greenwood-Phinney Greenways found a block of sidewalk on Greenwood Ave N north of 105th a new years ago, then spent a weekend uncovering it. This makes me wonder, how many more hidden pathways are there around town?

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3 responses to “West Seattle safe streets archaeologists unearth long-lost sidewalk”

  1. Tyler

    I wonder the history of this, why didn’t it get built fully to actually connect any intersections? Highland Park Way once had a streetcar line, so it almost certainly dates to to 1910s or 1920s when the road would’ve first been paved. At Gilman south of Emerson in Magnolia, the sidewalk gets covered by vegetation about 100 feet from the intersection at the bus stop, but concrete clearly continues under the blackberries. It seems to be the guard rail at the Emerson bridge was added at some point making the sidewalk pointless and forcing you to get in the road to cross the street.

  2. Kathy

    This was great work by the crew, thank you so much. It inspired me to write letters to the landowners just north of the Duwamish Longhouse on the west side of West Marginal Way SW. Their adjacent sidewalk areas are similarly buried in bushes and dirt. The atrocious state of those sidewalks makes it virtually impossible to walk or bike on the west side and forces people going to the Longhouse on foot or bicycle to cross the dangerous busy West Marginal Way SW twice. It might be a hopeless task to get action out of the property owners, but I have to try.

  3. Matthew Snyder

    Tom asked, “How many more hidden pathways are there around town?”

    Just in my own neighborhood (Hillman City), there are probably dozens of blocks of public alleys that are either impassable due to vegetation/debris, blocked off by abandoned cars, or fenced in by adjacent property owners. I’ve been thinking about how these alleys, if “daylighted,” could make a relatively low-cost network of pedestrian walkways in a neighborhood where many blocks lack sidewalks, and where the sidewalks that do exist are generally in bad shape (or have cars perpetually parked on them). These alleys would not necessarily be accessible to users of mobility devices, so they’re not a replacement for sidewalks with curb ramps, but they might be a useful temporary step until the year 2214 when we can finally get all of the missing sidewalks built.

    There is no city funding to improve these alleys, so this is basically a non-starter. But I’d be really curious to know if someone has tried to calculate the amount of public right-of-way tied up in “alleys” that are no longer accessible to anyone.

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