SEATTLE -- Seattle will keep 20 miles of streets closed as part of its Stay Healthy Streets program, the mayor announced.
The Stay Healthy Streets program launched on April 17 to "meet livability and sustainability values." The initial program closed 2.5 miles as a measure to create pedestrian-friendly street access during closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The success of that pilot program led to Seattle closing 15 miles of streets for recreational exercise. Now, the city is closing 20 miles of road permanently, with plans to add an additional three miles as well as bike access.
“We are in a marathon and not a sprint in our fight against COVID-19,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “As we assess how to make the changes that have kept us safe and healthy sustainable for the long term, we must ensure Seattle is rebuilding better than before.”
"Stay Healthy Streets are an important tool for families in our neighborhoods to get outside, get some exercise and enjoy the nice weather. Over the long term, these streets will become treasured assets in our neighborhoods.”
The city acknowledges the significant impact that the closure will make to transit capacity, but the Mayor believes that the benefits will outweigh any drawbacks. The program will look to connect with parks and other public spaces, creating direct and easy access for safe outdoor recreation.
The first expansion will be made in Rainer Valley from Mount Baker to Columbia City and Othello, per the Seattle Department of Transportation blog.
“Just like we must each adapt to a new normal going forward, so, too, must our city and the ways in which we get around,” said Sam Zimbabwe, Seattle Department of Transportation Director.
“That is why we’re announcing a nimble, creative approach towards rapidly investing in a network of places for people walking and people biking of all ages and abilities and thinking differently about our traffic signals that make pedestrians a greater priority. Despite the many challenges we face, 2020 will remain a year of thoughtful, forward progress as we build a safer, more livable Seattle for all.”
Seattle has set a curfew of 8 p.m. on parks to discourage congregating and any chance to infringe on social distancing protocols. As part of encouraging social distancing, Seattle is also running a "keep it moving" campaign, meaning that parks and public spaces are for "running, walking and biking."
Citizens have been taking advantage of the parks to host BBQs, bonfires and beach parties, among other activities that ignore social distancing.
“This weekend is Mother’s Day and I want to remind everyone – the best thing you can do for your mother or grandmother is stay home. Please do not gather at our parks” said Mayor Durkan. “We are not out of the woods, and we owe it to our moms and grandmas to fight COVID-19 with the only tool we have: social distancing.”
Washington state has had more than 16,000 coronavirus cases, along with almost 900 deaths. King County, of which Seattle is a part, has had more than 6,800 cases, but more than half the state's deaths -- at 480.