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An Update on Pier 58 (Waterfront Park)

Across the City and throughout all departments, public safety is always our number one priority. When it comes to the protection and maintenance of the infrastructure that keeps Seattle moving and makes this such a special place to live, work, and play, careful systems of close monitoring are an essential part of our safety-first approach.

From parks to stairs, bridges to seawalls, we work collaboratively to ensure we understand long-term needs and quickly identify emerging challenges. Today, we want to share more about these efforts as they specifically relate to Pier 58.

Pier 58, between University St and Pike St, between the Aquarium and Miner’s Landing/Great Wheel piers, is an aging piece of infrastructure long slated for a significant overhaul as part of the broader Waterfront Seattle Program. The Pier 58 replacement was already being designed, with removal of the existing pier and construction of a new public park pier planned for 2022. The new pier will improve access, offer views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains, and include a new children’s playground. It will also improve the salmon habitat and migration corridor. 

Pier 58 is one of two public piers we are replacing while building a new central waterfront. Pier 62, the other public pier, is nearly complete and will open later this year. We are currently rebuilding Alaskan Way in the footprint of the former Alaskan Way Viaduct, followed by a park promenade along the water and an elevated connection from Pike Place Market to the waterfront.

Over the past few days, it has become clear that natural forces have accelerated the closely monitored deterioration of Pier 58. On August 5th, Seattle Parks and Recreation staff were alerted to a waterline failure at Pier 58, and a possible shifting of the pier. Once onsite, staff confirmed that the pier had in fact shifted by several inches, creating a visible gap between the Pier and the adjacent upland. The seawall itself is also regularly monitored and has not shifted; these two structures are engineered to be separate.

This shifting of the Pier has been an ongoing but manageable maintenance issue over time that has happened well within the bounds of public safety. A secure metal plate has safely spanned the existing gap between the two separate and independent pieces of infrastructure and retrofitted as needed over time. The discovery on August 5th, however, was an acceleration of what had been observed in times past.

Midday Thursday contracted structural engineers on scene did a preliminary visual inspection of the Pier and concluded that the shift was substantial. Putting public safety above all else, Seattle Parks and Recreation made the decision to immediately shut off public access to this space while engineers and other experts conduct a more thorough inspection to better understand the extent of the shift, its implications, and what options might be taken in response to these findings.  

History of monitoring and repair

For decades, Pier 58 has been closely monitored, and every few years, as far back as 1989, Pier 58 has been subjected to a formal evaluation, just as SPR does for all of its piers and waterfront structures.  The latest structural evaluation was completed in 2016 by Seattle Structural PS Inc. From their 2016 report, “Pier 58, 59, and 60 Timber Piling Inspection”, it is noted that Pier 58 has a long history of examination.

Pier 58 prior condition studies and the repair history known to us are listed below.

  • 1989 – Arnold, Arnold & Associates condition assessment report
  • 1992 – CH2M Hill condition assessment report
  • 1996 – Sprinkler system replacement in accordance with drawings by Buffalo Design (architect)
  • and Berona/Langebartel (sprinkler engineer)
  • 1998-1999 – Tinnea, Echelon, and Tetra Tech condition assessment report
  • 2000 – Echelon and Reid Middleton condition assessment report
  • 2004 – Repairs to North Terrace in accordance with 1998-1999 report by Tinnea, et al.
  • 2006 – Tinnea and Seattle Structural condition assessment report
  • 2011 – Seattle Structural condition assessment report
  • 2014 – Echelon under deck inspection along seawall
  • 2016 – Seattle Structural condition assessment report

Since the 2016 report, Pier 58 was monitored with survey markers during the reconstruction of the seawall and waterfront and that survey information was provided to SPR for review.

The 2011 and 2016 reports from Seattle Structural made clear that Pier 58 would need replacement, while also proposing regular monitoring to determine when replacement may become urgent.

These reports prompted the City to begin planning to both design and fund a replacement of Pier 58, along with other proposed capital projects to revitalize Seattle’s Waterfront.

Seattle Department of Transportation’s effort to ensure public safety by making repairs to the Alaskan Way Seawall in 2018 and 19 included:

  • Securing loose guardrail cables on the seawall South of Pier 57
  • Repairing expansion joint at the Seattle Aquarium (Seawall Deck)
  • Replacing broken glass panels
  • Inspecting and repairing numerous expansion joints at Fire Station 5. Specific repair actions there included removing/replacing plates and screws and repairing and installing expansion anchors

Seattle Parks and Recreation crews have repaired transition plates at Pier 58 near the Aquarium due to shifting as recently as 2017 and 2019.

It is normal for piers to shift with tides, and to shift over the years. Seattle Parks and Recreation has been monitoring this pier to more accurately understand when repairs or replacement would be needed, and if any shifts were so substantial that it would warrant park/pier closure.

Seattle Parks and Recreation, together with SDOT have placed fencing and barricades to prevent public access to the pier. Additionally, SPR is working on alerting kayak groups of this closure and placing barriers beneath the pier. 

Pier 58 Replacement

The City’s Waterfront Seattle program has always included rebuilding Pier 58/Waterfront Park. The Pier 58 project was already being designed, with removal of the existing pier and construction of a new public park pier planned for 2022. Pier 58 is one of two public piers the City is replacing as part of the waterfront transformation. Pier 62, the other public pier, is largely complete and will open later this year, and construction on the new Alaskan Way and promenade is underway.

Pier 58, currently known as Waterfront Park, will be redesigned to create a public park and improve access, safety and flexibility to the pier, while offering expansive views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains. The new pier park is designed especially with families and young children in mind, with a new public plaza, a new children’s playground and a large lawn and trees to provide shade. The pier is also designed to improve the salmon habitat and migration corridor, supporting the sustainability features of the seawall.

Next Steps

Contracted engineers will complete their additional report early next week which will provide information on the extent of the shift, the state of the pier, and the likelihood that the shift will continue and at what rate. Once SPR receives the report, the City will begin planning for next steps concerning this pier.