Replacing the Downtown Seawall

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On Monday, April 23 the Council will meeting in a special committee to consider a resolution regarding the replacement of the downtown seawall.

Seawall in 1917 at Columbia Street (Seattle Municipal Archives)

Under the terms of the City- State agreement to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle is responsible for replacing the nearly 100-year old seawall. The bored tunnel to replace the viaduct is planned for early 2016, and the seawall must be completed on the same timeline, and before the Viaduct can come down.

On Monday the Council will consider Resolution 31731, which lays out a process for determining the final amount for a bond measure on the November ballot. The work would be completed by July 2. Included is a review the City’s overall financial capacity, what other funding could be available, remaining risks in estimated project costs, environmental permitting, and construction approaches. The resolution calls for a June public hearing, and a review of a bond measure in the context of the City’s debt capacity limits and other capital priorities.

Seattle Municipal Archives

The most recent cost estimate, at 35% design, is $325 million. The King County Flood Control District has committed $30 million, and the City has spent funds on design. An estimated $178 million would go toward soil stabilization, needed to stabilize the portion of the waterfront adjacent to Puget Sound.

Because Seattle is responsible for funding replacement of the seawall, if a ballot measure does not pass, then seawall replacement would need to be funded through general government revenues, which would require a reduction in other services.

The Presentation on Elliott Bay Seawall on Monday’s agenda has additional information.

The seawall has two portions. The first portion, needed for Viaduct replacement, is planned for City funding. Federal funding is targeted for the second portion, in the north end of Downtown.

In March, when I was in Washington, DC I met with senator Cantwell, and staff from Senator Murray’s office, and emphasized the importance of federal involvement in funding the second phase. This city/federal split in funding would be in line with usual local/federal division for funding seawall projects.

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