Areaways Program

Updated: March 20, 2020


Pioneer Square is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. While the neighborhood's historic streets are built on solid foundations, many of its sidewalks aren't. Unlike most sidewalks in the city, these sidewalks aren't built on top of solid ground; instead, they're hollow underneath, creating unique spaces called areaways.

In 2018, we conducted a structural analysis of the underground areaways in Pioneer Square. This analysis highlighted critical areaway structural vulnerabilities and helped us map potentially vulnerable areaways throughout the neighborhood.

We've made spot repairs in some locations in recent years, but we need to take a systematic approach moving forward. Our priority is to keep residents and businesses safe, so we're taking some preliminary steps to reduce the load on the areaways and prevent further issues, while maintaining reliable access for people and goods in the neighborhood. 

Areaway cross section

Schematic of an areaway

What's happening now?

Because of the current conditions in areaways, we have implemented strict vehicle weight limitations, increased commercial vehicle enforcement, and a restriction on load zones in some areas. 

Our priority is to keep residents, businesses, and through-traffic safe, so we are rolling out several safety measures to minimize stress on potentially vulnerable areaways.

March and April 2020

The Seattle Department of Transportation will start work next week to remove the decommissioned waterfront trolley platform on S Main St in Pioneer Square. Removing the platform will open S Main St to heavy vehicles, which brings goods and services to the people and businesses in the neighborhood.

Demolition will begin as early as the week of March 23, and last about a month. We'll first remove the metal parts of the platform - the roof, columns, and railings - and carefully put salvageable items into storage. 

We'll then demolish the concrete base of the platform and pave the street.

Decommissioned waterfront trolley platform   

Map of area surrounding the decommissioned trolley platform

During the trolley platform removal, you can expect:

  • Noise and vibration
  • Heavy machinery operating
  • Dust
  • Lane closure for people driving eastbound on S Main St. People driving westbound won't be affected.

What's next?

Throughout 2020, we'll add to our existing monitoring system and continue a complete assessment of the areaways to determine a long-term plan of action to repair necessary areas.

Map of Pioneer Square areaways assessment area


Fact sheet (December 2019)