Construction begins on $350M Seattle seawall project

SEATTLE -- Construction on Seattle's $350 million replacement seawall officially began on Monday, and it started with a traffic warning.

Construction on seawall means Alaskan Way will close while crews build a new road under the viaduct.

Project manager Jessica Murphy said the project, which is expected to take three years, is absolutely necessary.

"The seawall is failing and we need to get it built, and now's the time. We're excited to get started," she said.

While officials believe it's the right thing to do, they admit the project will create headaches for drivers.

"It's going to be a really large construction project," said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

McGinn said the first step is to build a new road under the viaduct so crews can start tearing through Alaskan Way to build the new seawall.

Built in the 1930s, the current seawall has collapsed in places and created small sinkholes. The waterfront and the viaduct weren't built to withstand a major earthquake.

Work on the seawall will stop each summer, but many waterfront business owners are still worried about how construction will hurt tourism.

"We want it to be done as quickly as possible," said Bob Donegan of Ivar's. "There are 250 full-time, family-wage employees and we don't want to lose those people."

Ivar's and 14 other businesses negotiated with the city to temporarily close down in exchange for compensation from the city.

"In that reconstruction there's an opportunity to build something better and leave for the future," McGinn said.

When it's built, the new seawall will be friendlier to pedestrians and fish, including an underwater habitat for migrating salmon.