I’m usually out looking for exciting construction projects, but sometimes they find me. Such was the case this week, when I checked into an oceanfront suite in Pismo Beach, Calif., and looked out my balcony to see the city’s historic, 94-year-old pier surrounded by hard hats and heavy equipment and undergoing a major renovation a mere 150 yards away.

I was in town for a mini-vacation at the Inn at the Pier boutique hotel, but this project looked too interesting to ignore. I had to put on my beach shorts and walk across the parking to find out more.

Led by Cushman Contracting Corp, a general engineering contractor firm from Goleta, Calif., the $8.8-million rehabilitation includes upgrading existing timber piles with steel piles; cleaning and recoating the existing steel piles and steel pile caps; and replacing the timber braces, decking and handrails.

Before the current renovation, the pier was made up of approximately 382 timber piles and 114 steel piles. When the project is complete in fall 2019, there will be a total of 297 steel piles (183 new and 114 existing) and 156 timber piles (two new and 154 existing).

Aidan Basinger, project manager for Cushman, told me that being a marine project, the biggest uncertainty going into the assignment was the underwater work and more specifically pile driving.  “Fortunately, pile driving has gone very well and we haven’t had issues with unforeseen obstructions, pile alignment, or piles reaching refusal prior to achieving the required embedment depth,” he says.

As far as challenges, Basinger says a lack of onsite storage was a little tough early on in the project, before they gained real estate on the pier itself. “With careful coordination, we implemented a just-in-time delivery system for the larger, bulkier materials,” he says. “This was especially challenging to coordinate as the steel pipe piles originated in the Philippines, the miscellaneous metals in Arizona, and the treated timbers in Oregon.”

The total cost of the structural upgrade is estimated at $8.8 million, which includes engineering costs, public art, contracting and contingency funds. Cushman Contracting was awarded a $6.5 million contract on Jan. 17, 2017. Construction began on March 15, 2017.

Other construction highlights include a new electrical system, water line for fire protection, upgraded lighting, benches, tables and other public amenities. There will be areas for public art and information boards for learning spaces describing the history of the Pier, the surrounding area, and the local marine environment. When complete, officials say the Pismo Pier will have the look and feel of “Classic California” with a traditional wooden decking and outdoor recreational space.

The Pier, while still heavily used, is tired and damaged, with sections that are more than 93 years old and showing their age. The City of Pismo Beach says on their website that had they not moved forward with the project, the Pier would continue to deteriorate and would be closed during most storm events or periods of high swell, and would be unusable for public events.

Since its original construction in 1924, the pier has suffered damage during several storms. A partial collapse of the structure in 1983 prompted the state to reconstruct a portion of it in 1985. A comprehensive structural inspection performed in 2015 led to a recommendation that several areas of the pier be rehabilitated.