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'Substantial' pier shift closes Seattle's Waterfront Park

Asia Fields, The Seattle Times on

Published in News & Features

SEATTLE -- Officials closed the downtown Waterfront Park this week after discovering a pier had shifted several inches, leaving a gap between the pier and land.

The city's Parks and Recreation department received a report Wednesday of a waterline failure and possible shifting at Pier 58, between University and Pike streets next to the Seattle Aquarium and Great Wheel. Structural engineers determined the shift was "substantial" Thursday, and the park was closed off with fencing and barricades.

The 50-year-old pier was slated for replacement in 2022 as part of the larger post-Viaduct waterfront redesign, and is currently in design stage. The Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation said in a statement that "natural forces have accelerated" its deterioration, and plans for the pier are being reevaluated.

Parks and Recreation spokesperson Rachel Schulkin said there is not yet a solid cost estimate for the project, which would be funded through a tax on downtown property owners for the city's waterfront plan.

The city declined to pursue repairs recommended in 2006 because of cost and plans for changing the waterfront area, and instead put in place load restrictions, according to the pier's most recent evaluation in 2016 by Seattle Structural, an engineering firm.

The city has been monitoring the pier for shifts to see when "replacement may become urgent," according to the Parks Department. Crews repaired transition plates at the pier last year and in 2017.

Seattle Structural warned in 2006 and 2011 that it was likely a failure would eventually close the park, but in 2016 said it was confident the park could stay open while the replacement was planned, as long as the pier was off-limits to vehicles. It said that without repairs, an earthquake or large wind event could cause sections of the pier to collapse vertically.

 

Another public pier that is being replaced, Pier 62, is expected to open later this year.

The seawall is separate from Pier 58 and has not shifted, according to the city, which anticipates a report from engineers early next week.

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