Alaskan Way Seawall

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Seawall construction, 1934

The Alaskan Way Seawall is a seawall which runs for approximately 7,166 feet (2,184 m) along the Elliott Bay waterfront southwest of downtown Seattle from Bay Street to S. Washington Street.[1] The seawall is being rebuilt in the 2010s as part of a waterfront redevelopment megaproject estimated to cost over one billion dollars.[2]


First slab of Seattle Central Waterfront seawall being placed, 1934
Seawall inspection, 1954
Seawall replacement, 2015. Pier 54 at left.

The seawall was built to provide level access to Seattle's piers and supports the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Alaskan Way itself, which is a surface street. Completed in 1934, the seawall was built on top of wood piling.[citation needed]


Despite efforts to prevent marine pest damage when the seawall was designed, after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, SDOT found that gribbles had consumed all the wooden supports in some places.[3]

In addition, everything behind the seawall from Alaskan Way to Western Avenue is built on top of fill, making for a very dangerous situation should a large earthquake occur.[opinion][clarification needed][citation needed]

The viaduct itself has been considered particularly at risk[opinion]; the Washington State Department of Transportation states that there is a 1-in-20 chance that it could be shut down by an earthquake within the next decade,[4] and so plans have been underway to replace both seawall and viaduct.

The seawall rebuild project was estimated to cost $350 million as part of an overall waterfront redevelopment budgeted in 2012 at $1.07 billion.[2][5] Construction began in 2013 and it is scheduled to be complete in 2017, more than a year late and costing $409 million as of September 2015.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Determination of Significance and Request for Comments on Scope of EIS" (PDF). Seattle Department of Transportation. May 27, 2015. Retrieved December 29, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Daniel Beekman (September 29, 2014), "With costs up, mayor wants to roll back Seattle waterfront plan", The Seattle Times 
  3. ^ John Roach (April 23, 2004), "Seattle Waterfront Falling to Gribble Invasion", National Geographic 
  4. ^ Alaskan Way viaduct project, Washington State Department of Transportation 
  5. ^ Ellis E. Conklin (September 30, 2014), "Bertha Strikes Again: Stalled Tunnel Project Will Cause City to Downsize Waterfront Plan; Sigh", Seattle Weekly 
  6. ^ Beekman, Daniel (August 21, 2015). "Seawall project $71 million over budget". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  7. ^ Daniels, Chris; Hahn, Elisa; Brand, Natalie (September 14, 2015). "Seattle seawall delayed, millions over budget". KING 5 News. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°36′16″N 122°20′21″W / 47.60444°N 122.33917°W / 47.60444; -122.33917