Workers will begin laying Bellevue's first sections of "rubber sidewalk" this week as part of a test to determine how well the new material works in areas where tree roots have buckled traditional concrete blocks.
By using the rubber pavers, made from worn out tires, the pilot project encourages environmentally-friendly building practices and helps protect Bellevue's tree canopy -- two objectives of the city's Environmental Stewardship Initiative.
Employees of Merlino Brothers LLC, the city's contractor for the job, will remove damaged concrete sidewalk sections and install rubber pavers around problem trees as an alternative to cutting them down. The new sidewalk will be located downtown, along a half-block stretch of Northeast 10th Street, west of 102nd Avenue Northeast.
Roots from American sweet gum trees, some up to 20 inches in diameter, have caused the concrete sidewalks to heave since the trees were planted adjacent to the sidewalk around 1991.
Like other cities nationwide, Bellevue has several locations where "vertical heaving" caused by tree roots has affected sidewalks. City transportation officials hope this pilot project, part of a broader effort to improve sidewalks citywide, will prove useful elsewhere in Bellevue. Rubber sidewalks offer several benefits:
- Safety: Since the rubber pavers are flexible enough to accommodate some root growth, they should decrease potential tripping hazards.
- Accessibility: Because the pavers are designed to help make sidewalks smoother and easier to navigate for wheelchairs, they boost Bellevue's effort to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Tree protection: If tree roots do cause heaving, rubber pavers can be more easily removed and replaced than concrete, allowing workers to trim roots instead of having to cut down trees.
- Recycling: Rubber sidewalks are made from discarded, ground up tires, along with a resin binder and a colorant. Pavers used above ground mean fewer old tires disposed of underground in landfills.
The pilot project will help city staff to evaluate the durability and the long-term maintenance costs of rubber sidewalks compared with other materials.
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