Some of Seattle’s waterfront businesses frustrated at latest delay in seawall construction

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SEATTLE -- The replacement seawall won’t be done on time or on budget, according to Seattle's Department of Transportation.

They made the announcement Friday, saying it will now cost $409 million to complete the project. The original estimate was $334 million. The new date for completion will be 2017 -- a year later than planned.

Steve-O spends his days driving tourists in his pedicab along Seattle’s waterfront. This summer, he’s had to answer a lot of questions about why there’s so much construction.

“They’re building a better pier, by putting better pilings,” explains the pedicab operator. “Because the old wood was getting eaten by insects.”

He wasn’t bothered when he heard that SDOT’s original estimate for the cost and duration of the project was going up.

“Good things take time,” he says.

But Andy James, the owner of Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, says these new delays are frustrating.

“It’s been a long project already. We know it’s important and it has to get done, but man, it’s tough.”

He closed his business completely last winter, and thought the work in front of his shop would be done before the summer tourist season got under way. It’s not.

“The traffic is mess, parking’s not good. We hear a lot of people saying its very frustrating getting to us.”

SDOT officials say the cost overruns can’t be helped. They’re working with unstable soil, and the budget to deal with groundwater and seawater had to be increased. They say pushing back some of the work will allow them to look for ways to save money, and it might be easier for businesses.

“If we had moved forward with the existing schedule, we would have the entirety of the waterfront under construction at one time,” says Scott Kubly. “By deferring that work, we’re able to minimize that disruption.”

Steve-O says it means his rides along the waterfront will continue to have views of construction for the next couple years. But he doesn’t mind.

“It’s harder. But in the long run, it will be better for all of Seattle and stuff. I’m really excited.”

The mayor is calling for an audit, to make sure these new cost estimates are correct. That’s part of the reason the next phase of the project is being delayed a year. But he wants taxpayers to know that the new budget overruns will not be passed on them. He says the city will be able to use some commercial parking taxes and real estate excise taxes to manage the cost.