Seawall Toilets

Traffic on Seawall Boulevard passes by one of the Portland Loo public toilets along the seawall in Galveston on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. The toilets are scheduled to open to the public Friday.

STUART VILLANUEVA/The Daily News

GALVESTON

Nearly two years after breaking ground, and even longer counting the planning phase, Galveston beachgoers will finally have a new place to “go” at the beach.

Five new seawall bathrooms will open to the public Friday morning, city officials confirmed Wednesday. The first flush will mark the end of a project that began in 2016 and became, as one city official put it, a “nightmare” vexed by numerous delays because of the complications of building on the seawall.

The bathrooms and other improvements are among amenities promised after the city began charging for parking along Seawall Boulevard in 2013.

“All we’re waiting for is for the construction company to complete a few little cosmetic things,” said David Smith, Galveston’s executive director of fleet, mass transit, parks and special events. He was expecting the keys to the new bathrooms to be dropped off today, he said.

The $4.9 million improvement project includes new signage, lighted bollards, nearly 30 bus stops and new planters and palm trees — all of which have been installed during the past two years.

The project was paid for by a federal transit grant first awarded to the city in 2009. The city matched the grant with $466,000. Money from the seawall parking program is supposed to pay for the continued maintenance of the improvements, city officials said.

But the most anticipated addition is five new permanent bathrooms that will replace portable toilets that have been available on the seawall for a while.

The new stainless-steel toilets are known as Portland Loos, and cost about $90,000 apiece. The toilets are supposed to be rustproof, and are designed to discourage people from sleeping inside them.

Hand-washing stations and showers are on the outside of the toilets, and slats at the bottom of the facilities allow passersby to see whether they are occupied.

The toilets will be maintained by the Galveston Park Board of Trustees, Smith said. The park board’s seawall attendants and Galveston Police Department officers will monitor the bathrooms for loiterers.

The city broke ground on its seawall improvements in May of 2016, and officials initially hoped they would be completed in less than a year.

But the work was delayed when construction crews tried to install utility lines under the seawall, Smith said. On several occasions, crews encountered unexpected debris, including pieces of construction materials, old road material and pieces of buildings that had been built over as the wall was expanded.

Each time crews hit an obstacle, they had to contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is charged with maintaining stability of the seawall.

“We’re just glad we’re finally finished,” Galveston City Manager Brian Maxwell said on Wednesday. “We’re glad to get them opened. Hopefully, we can continue to generate in the parking fund and add some more improvements in the future.”

The toilets are advertised to last between 40 years and 60 years, Maxwell said. It remains to be seen, however, how well they’ll survive in Galveston’s salty and abrasive climate, “where even plastic rusts,” Maxwell said.

The city and construction crews went through their final checklists on the improvements this week, including making sure that the toilets flushed properly, Smith said.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(13) comments

Byron Barksdale

Great improvement but we also need a beach replenished West of 81rst Street to the end of the Seawall. Doing so raises property valuations (more taxes to Galveston County), protects the Seawall, allows beachgoers more room to spread out along the entire Seawall, increases motel occupancy resulting directly in more occupancy taxes to the City, increases likelihood of restaurants West of 61 rst Street. Lack of funding is not the issue! Great for tourism!!

Ron Shelby

Requires a study to see if it raises values, and taxes enough to pay for the constant replenishment. Plus, it could actually lower values in other areas as more beach is available, making it less of a premium. Lots of numbers to crunch for something like that.

Steve Fouga

Ron says: "Lots of numbers to crunch for something like that."

Very true. I've long wondered if a study has already been done, and the results showed such a beach extension is NOT beneficial, or maybe that part of the shoreline is neglected for political reasons even if shown to be economically beneficial, or if the study just hasn't been done. To me it seems a no-brainer, but like Ron says, there should be a study.

Susan Fennewald

The only time Byron Bardsdale comments - is to encourage more sand further west. Does he even live here? Does he live beachfront on the west end and wants sand in front of his property?

Ron Shelby

NOT a productive comment Susan. More of an attack. Please use more productive responses. I like you...but didn’t appreciate that.

Byron Barksdale

Thank you Ron and Steve Fouga. I trained at UTMB and have owned property on the Seawall since 1990.... and paying $25,000 each year to the Galveston Tax Assessor, so I believe I can comment on preserving and embellishing the beaches in front of the Seawall. Will be moving back permanently soon.

Steve Fouga

Susan, I've noticed the same thing, but I happen to agree with him. I would like to see sand further west as well. I don't mind sand ending up in front of West End homes, because I enjoy the beach out there just like the property owners do.

David Schuler

Congratulations on completing the project - The Seawall is, indeed, much improved! But from a project management perspective, please remember this key lesson - do not start by simultaneously digging five huge holes! Dig one, build one, finish one, move on. Will save HUGE angst for beach visitors and residents alike.

David Doe

Paid for by your friends on the West End!

Susan Fennewald

????

Bill Cochrane

David. Angst?
noun
1.
a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish. ---
I'm not aware of anyone that feels these symptoms about these amenities being built all at once.
Maybe inconvenience?
The people of Galveston never cease to amaze.
50% complain about bad roads, beach amenities, etc.
The same 50% complain when the city does anything about the problems.
Common sense tells me that if road work is an inconvenience, simply use another route.

David Schuler

The contractor opened five RV-sized holes in the seawall pavement, blocking cyclists and pedestrians. Then discovered how difficult it was to complete the infrastructure, so they sat there for more than a year. I know this is how contractors work. But given the situation, my comment is regarding process - dig one hole, install the plumbing (however long that takes), cover the hole. Might take same time, but less angst for visitors and residents. It's called good engineering and good project management.

Kelly Campbell

They’ll be rust resistant until the first time someone uses bleach to clean them.

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