Voting on Seattle's seawall

Oct 17, 2012

If you stand at the edge of Elliott Bay on Pier 59 where the Seattle Aquarium sits, you can peer straight down to see a water-stained, barnacle-pocked concrete slab. It's part of the seawall which extends under Alaskan Way, the major surface street along the waterfront. Much of it is deteriorating, especially the old growth timbers that are hidden behind the concrete where the wall has been patched.

Supporters of Seattle's Proposition One to replace the seawall say it could completely fail in an earthquake or large storm, making it a public safety risk. That's why city officials want it rebuilt - but it comes with a price tag. Seattle voters are being asked to approve a $290 million, 30-year bond measure to replace it. That works out to about $59 dollars a year for the owner of a median-valued home.

Christopher Brown, a retired traffic engineer who opposes the measure, says waterfront businesses that cater to visitors should pick up the tab - not the city at large.

"If it has value to tourism, then certainly those businesses that earn their income off of tourism should be financing that which assures the tourists arrive safely."

But city council member Jean Godden says Proposition One is a fair and economic solution and, besides being a public safety issue, the seawall protects the city's infrastructure.

"There would be the collapse of major utilities that are on the waterfront, the power, sewer, storm water, and natural gas. Why,  you wouldn't probably be able to flush a toilet in downtown Seattle if something were to happen."

If the measure does pass, the building of the new seawall is expected to coincide with construction of the deep-bore tunnel which is scheduled to get underway in 2013.