Arlington Public Works employees use The Big Sidewalk Sucker to lift a concrete panel from the sidewalk. The device saves the city some money and time to level ground below the concrete. (Arlington Public Works)

Arlington Public Works employees use The Big Sidewalk Sucker to lift a concrete panel from the sidewalk. The device saves the city some money and time to level ground below the concrete. (Arlington Public Works)

This thing sucks and helps repair sidewalks in Arlington

Public works crews can remove heavy concrete panels from sidewalks, so the ground underneath can be restored.

A $7,670 device is saving Arlington thousands of dollars on sidewalk repairs.

The Big Sidewalk Sucker — yes, that’s actually its name — can lift up to 2,500 lbs. using a vacuum seal. Most of the city’s concrete sidewalk panels are 5-feet-by-5-feet, 4 inches deep and don’t weigh that much, Arlington maintenance and operations manager Jay Downing said.

Instead of demolishing slabs to prune roots and smooth ground underneath, the device picks it up to be used again later.

Over the past few years, the city has repaired about 1,000 feet of sidewalk using the tool.

“This machine helps us avoid having to remove otherwise good condition sidewalk,” he said. “It saves a ton in concrete and labor.”

Before getting the Big Sidewalk Sucker, the city’s sidewalk projects took a lot of time and money. Crews would break up the sidewalk, dig into the ground, trim tree roots, redo the ground with pea gravel and root barrier, and contract with a company to pour the concrete.

Now the city can do most of that, including some of the concrete pouring, without contractors. That saves some time in scheduling, though it is faster to just demolish concrete than it is to carefully lift and place it.

The city’s recently wrapped sidewalk repair program covered 175 feet that needed ground work. But only about 45 feet of sidewalk needed concrete poured because the rest was lifted by the Big Sidewalk Sucker.

A crew of three people works the new device.

One person operates the excavator, which holds the Big Sidewalk Sucker with chains. Another maneuvers it and the concrete panel using handles, and a third is there to assist and make sure nobody is walking through the area. No one wants several hundred pounds of sidewalk falling on their foot.

“There’s a lot of moving pieces,” Downing said.

Arlington followed the lead of DuPont, a city of over 10,000 residents in Pierce County, which got a Big Sidewalk Sucker in 2016. The city bought it for $8,699 and touted it for saving money in sidewalk repair costs. It has become an important enough tool that DuPont bought a backup unit the next year.

Snohomish County Public Works is in on The Big Sidewalk Sucker, too. Or at least that technology. The county bought a sidewalk panel lifter for $8,319.68 in October.

Crews use it where more common cast-in-place maintenance work is no longer necessary. But some concrete panels are damaged beyond reuse with the tool.

Snohomish County maintains over 500 miles of sidewalks, with most in the southwest area. Reports from the public help identify where problems are and where to prioritize maintenance work, spokesperson Matt Phelps said.

Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Providence nurse’s tearful plea shines light on short-staffed ER

The nurse described an overwhelmed emergency department, as staff have pleaded with the Everett City Council for hazard pay.

FILE - This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. A leading doctor who chairs a World Health Organization expert group described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as "a random event" that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP, File)
Snohomish Health District hiring full-time monkeypox task force

The county is gearing up for more cases. The outbreak will be evaluated weekly to decide if a four-person team is merited.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Body found in impounded car in Lake Stevens

In June, Bothell police impounded the vehicle. Last week, a Lake Stevens business found a body inside.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
California woman dies after motorcycle crash west of Lake Stevens

Kimberly Moore was the passenger on a motorcycle Friday morning. She died the next night. She was 53.

A view of the proposed alternative station location to Everett Station located east of the current BNSF rail tracks in downtown. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could light rail station under Pacific Avenue and over railroad work?

A group representing people around Everett Station wants Sound Transit to study the idea.

State Representative Robert Sutherland, left, gives a thumbs-up to passing drivers as he and a few volunteers wave flags and campaign signs along the side of State Route 9 on July 22, in Lake Stevens. Sam Low, right, talks with seniors on July 20 in Lake Stevens. (Sutherland photo by Ryan Berry / The Herald, Low photo by Kevin Clark / The Herald)
In GOP battle of Sutherland vs. Low, Democrats may tip the scale

The state lawmaker and Snohomish County council member are vying for a House seat. Democrats make up roughly 40% of the vote.

Food forum
Chocolate peanut butter Incredibles

These chocolate peanut butter bars are, as the name suggests, incredible.

SnoTown Brewing’s Frank Sandoval in 2019. (Aaron Swaney)
SnoTown Brewery owner charged with child molestation

Frank Sandoval conceded his conduct with a girl at his brewery was inappropriate, but he denied touching her sexually, charges say.

Everett
Head-on crash in Everett leaves man with life-threatening injuries

A two-vehicle collision in the 11600 block of Evergreen Way shut down southbound traffic Monday morning.

Most Read