A rendering of what a future I-5 lid could look like. (Credit: Central Hills Triangle Collaborative)

So much of 2020 was about just holding on, so let’s start 2021 with a big, bold idea like healing the giant rift in out city and covering the I-5 freeway that cuts it in two! If that sound interesting to you, then please join us at our January 12th meetup from 6:15pm to 7:30pm where we will be joined by Lid I-5, a grassroots organization dedicated to reclaiming space from freeway trenches starting with I-5 in Downtown Seattle.

The group is run by working people who are volunteering their time because they believe in creating a more livable, equitable, and sustainable Seattle. Among them is Natalie Bicknell, senior reporter at The Urbanist, and Scott Bonjukian, my predecessor as programming director who also wrote his planning school thesis on lidding I-5.

Beyond reconnecting our city, Lid I-5 has many reasons for advocating to cover the freeway: Downtown, Capitol Hill, and First Hill are 3.5% of Seattle’s land area but are absorbing 29% of population growth. Lidding I-5 is likely the only opportunity to catch up on much-needed affordable housing sites, public open space, civic facilities like schools and community centers, and other public and private infrastructure.

The I-5 freeway is a major environmental issue, with significant noise, air pollution, and visual impacts to people who live and work nearby–lids reduce these impacts. Lids will also enable more people to live, work, shop, and play in walkable urban neighborhoods and drive less, contributing to Seattle’s 2050 carbon neutrality goal. Lidding the freeway will also create much needed land in our central city to support more parks, housing, and jobs.

An aerial view of Downtown Seattle with the I-5 trench capped by green space, mid-rise housing, and a few towers, too.
Lid I-5 envisions green space and housing where once only concrete and automobiles roamed. (Lid I-5 Seattle)

Freeway lids are possible; they’ve been done dozens of times across the country and locally (see Lid I-5’s map here). In Seattle it’s an idea that has been tossed around for years but has more recently taken a few steps towards reality with a City-funded feasibility study. In addition, the I-5 Systems Partnership is guiding a discussion among public agencies about the future of the I-5 corridor. The freeway is over 50 years old and seismically vulnerable. It is possible the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will pursue a major rehabilitation on the Seattle section. Lid I-5 argues Seattle should be ready with a community plan before any major freeway work so public benefits can be coordinated and leveraged. (Learn more and get involved at lidi5.org and check out our past lid coverage here.)

They will be talking about their vision and taking your questions. This monthly social event is free, all ages, and open to everyone. Call in if you want to meet other people who care about our city, network, or hear from an inspirational speaker. The line opens a 6:15pm for networking and discussion and the speaker starts at 6:30pm. We hope you can join us!

Watch the video from our meetup here:

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Patrick grew up across the Puget Sound from Seattle and used to skip school to come hang out in the city. He is an designer at a small architecture firm with a strong focus on urban infill housing. He is passionate about design, housing affordability, biking, and what makes cities so magical. He works to advocate for abundant and diverse housing options and for a city that is a joy for people on bikes and foot. He and his family live in the Othello neighborhood.