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Seattle Seawall Will Take Longer, Cost More Than Expected

Crews have yet to finish stabilizing the soil behind the seawall. That work is going on in front of Colman Dock, nearby. But work has stopped in front of the shops and restaurants for tourist season.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph
The seawall replacement remains incomplete in front of waterfront shops and restaurants. Work is scheduled to resume this October.

Bad news for one of the city of Seattle’s biggest construction projects: The Seawall replacement is going to cost a lot more than planned, and it’ll take an extra year.


A month ago the city’s transportation department said parts of the project were later, but everything was fine.

Reporter: “How far delayed is the Seawall now?”

Jessica Murphy, the Seawall Project manager, speaking on July 13: “The project’s not delayed overall."

Reporter: “And how’s the budget doing? Have you been able to stay relatively on target?”

Murphy: “Yes.”

But behind the scenes city officials were being hit with a tsunami of unexpected bills. Now the cost of replacing the Seawall is $410 million – 40 percent higher than the original estimate.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says an independent audit will check the new cost estimates.

The project will now stretch out an extra year, to 2017, while the Seattle Department of Transportation hunts for savings.

The head of SDOT, Scott Kubly, says the costs clearly come from the business end of the Seawall Project – the soil stabilization.

Kubly: “There’s not another project that we can find that has the volume of jet grouting that we’re doing.”

Jet grouting: injecting the soil with columns of liquid concrete to stabilize it.

When that work finally got up to speed late this spring, the city discovered that carting away the stuff that used to be down there -- a mix of wood and soil and fill -- cost much more than expected.

It tore through the city’s $30 million contingency fund, and it threatened to keep right on going.

City Council members, including Jean Godden, expressed disappointment.

Godden: “It really is damned unfortunate to discover this late in the project.”

But it wasn’t a surprise to the businesses along the waterfront who have been watching the project fall behind. Next week they are scheduled to meet with the city to discuss the resumption of work in front of their businesses this fall.