Keller Williams Greater Seattle, Ben Kakimoto, Seattle Condo Agent

Construction Quagmire

delay.jpg DELAYED!

The month long strike by merely 100 operating engineers at the area’s four cement plants is showing it’s impact on Seattle’s construction sites, public and private. Not only has the strike impacted major civic projects like Sound Transit’s light rail and the Olympic Sculpture Park, it’s delaying work on many condo projects as well. Drive around town and the sites look like ghost towns.

The strike may throw off construction timelines including completion dates. It’ll be interesting to see if developers will eat the costs for those already under contract or will some how make it up.

The engineers are members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 and rejected another offer last week.


The powers that be are still wrestling over what to do with the Alaskan Way Viaduct – rebuild, bury, retrofit. Three things are known for certain (1) it’ll end up costing millions to billions more than estimated, (2) it’ll take years, and (3) the politicos will debate, dissect, research, commission and ponder the alternatives until someone with enough cojones steps up to the plate.

Regardless of what alternative is ultimately chosen, it will have a huge impact for those living in downtown. From retrofitting to the Big Dig 2, the Viaduct portion of Highway 99 could be closed anywhere from 3 to 6 years. Keep in mind there are only two major North/South routes to and through the city. Traffic that used to flow effortlessly on the viaduct will be rerouted through the downtown street grid. You think the occassional Mariners or Seahawks game is bad, 6 years could be a nightmare with 100,000’s of cars piled up right outside the ritzy new condos.

Another thing to consider, with a tunnel, is that excavating the landfilled shoreline may hold a few surprises left over from the indigenous people of the area. Any finds will hold up construction even longer than the current 6 year plan.

I mention these two issues not to scare away buyers. Afterall, the cement strike and viaduct issues are temporary inconveniences. And, a tunnel with park-like setting on top is likely to add considerable value to downtown condo properties. Rather, I mention these as potential buyers should be aware of issues impacting projects and/or may affect their enjoyment.


About the Author

About the Author: Ben Kakimoto is a Seattle condo and urban real estate marketing & listing specialist. Contact Ben to learn more about the Seattle condo and loft real estate market or about buying or selling a Seattle area condo. Find Ben on Twitter and Facebook. .


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  1. Seattle Condos and Lofts » Update on Concrete Strike | August 26, 2006
  1. jcricket says:

    While I think it’s good of you to post factual information, this is not the Big Dig 2.

    It’s a cut-and-cover tunnel, basically a submerged roadway with a lid. Much like the battery street tunnel, or the lids over I90 on Mercer Island, both of which has zero issues.

    The big dig was hundreds of projects thrown together, miles longer and more varied than the viaduct, buried far deeper under the city.

    Despite all the FUD, the tunnel and any elevated replacement are likely to be equally as safe (or unsafe), giving neither the edge in that regard.

    Also – Any elevated replacement will have to dig far deeper and in different places than the current viaduct, with as much potential for unexpected ground-related issues.

    To me the answer is obvious. Build the tunnel, but find a way to shift more of the cost differential to those that will directly benefit (property owners in that area and the city, which owns the piers + waterfront). People in Seattle are just so whiny about the “high” cost of infrastructure because they see numbers higher than what they saw 20 or 30 years ago. They can’t seem to get over the fact that the continued growth of Seattle (and King County) over the last 50 years necessitates major infrastructure improvements, and those have price tags in the billions. Unless we want to start shrinking as a city, get used to these numbers.

  2. Ben_Kakimoto says:

    In the long run the cut and cover is the best option for the city, I believe. It may cost more and take longer to construct but the benefits of burying the traffic and connecting downtown to Elliot bay by opening up the waterfront are enormous, not just from a property standpoint. But, Seattle’s goverment by consensus isn’t going to get the job done. The reference to the Big Dig was tongue in cheek.

  3. jcricket says:

    Sorry, didn’t sense the sarcasm in your original “dig” ๐Ÿ™‚

    Interesting factoid – Did you also know that lots (most) government and WSDOT building projects come in on time and on budget? Check out their web site and read the quarterly reports: – Republican propoganda notwithstanding, I’d bet WSDOT is better run than most companies.

    It’s quite possible to do things as big as the viaduct replacement on budget, but not (as you said) with all the cost increases that come about because Seattle dithers forever trying to get consensus.

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