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Mayor McGinn defends Seattle seawall schedule

Early concept of future viaduct-less Seattle waterfront. A new waterfront street will be built where the viaduct once stood. Merchants are angry about a proposed timeline for construction of a new seawall. (WSDOT image)

While some business owners along the Seattle waterfront accuse the city of reneging on a promised construction schedule for the new seawall, Mayor Mike McGinn says there’s no way to avoid disruption.

Bob Donegan, president of Ivar’s, whose flagship restaurant is at Pier 54 on the downtown waterfront, told Ross and Burbank merchants are “livid.”

“We think we had a deal with them,” Donegan said. “The city is talking about not living up to its promise not to disturb us in the summer, but instead to begin construction after Labor Day instead of after Oct. 1.”

Donegan said September is an important month for waterfront businesses between cruise ship traffic and the Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders, and Huskies all bring thousands of people to the area.

But in an appearance Tuesday on Ross and Burbank, the mayor insisted the schedule is already so tight there’s only so much the city can do.

“The reality is that we’re talking about replacing the seawall on the waterfront and there will be construction impacts and that’s just absolutely unavoidable.”

According to McGinn, the city already can’t do any work in the waters of Elliot Bay between Feb. 15 and Aug. 1 because of juvenile salmon migration.

Construction is slated to begin in fall of 2013 and take approximately seven years. But McGinn said the first phase has to be completed by 2016, in time for the planned removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. He said the city will work in segments so that only certain parts of the waterfront will be disrupted at any given time.

“The primary thing is we need to build the seawall within the budget and the schedule allotted and we will do everything we can to mitigate the effects on businesses within that construction schedule.”

Voters approved a $290 million, 30-year bond measure to pay to rebuild the seawall. McGinn said now that a general contractor has been hired, a more detailed schedule and mitigation plans can be developed. But he admitted business and transportation in the area will face substantial impacts.

“We’ll do the remainder of the design and we’ll take a look at what we can do in regard to schedule. But of course there are tradeoffs because the less time that we work means that the longer the project might last overall, might last another year,” McGinn said.

The city of Seattle will host an open house on the Elliott Bay Seawall Project Draft Environmental Review from 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center’s Maritime Events Center, 2211 Alaskan Way. Short public presentations will be at 5:15 and 6:15. The city will be taking comments.

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