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.