Notes from the Field: Annapolis City Dock Bulkhead Replacement

This week, EBA helped celebrate the grand opening of the Annapolis City Dock bulkhead replacement project. I thought this would be a good time to share a few thoughts about this impressive project from an “insider” perspective.

A Lot Depends on a Bulkhead

The City Dock has been the geographic, cultural, and commercial center of Annapolis for more than 300 years. In all, the project involved installing 700 linear feet of cantilevered steel sheet pile with concrete cap bulkhead, as well as new slips and timber mooring piles.

Residents and visitors will also notice a number of aesthetic improvements and new amenities as a result of the multi-million dollar project, such as a new seating area along the seawall, a wider wooden boardwalk along Donner Lot, and boat slips with upgraded utilities.

But the project is not only beautiful to look at. According to Rhonda Wardlaw, City of Annapolis public information officer, “it also takes the marine industry’s needs into consideration and supports the requests of our boating population by adding additional mooring bitts to the existing mooring piles, allowing a tie-off for vessels every six feet.” The project also included upgraded utilities, water connections, and fire protections systems for the dock’s 17 boat slips.

Partnership is Alive in Annapolis

It’s true that “partnering” is a popular buzzword nowadays and that lots of agencies like to throw around the word “partnership” to talk about their projects. But with my experience on two City of Annapolis projects, I can confidently say that the City truly knows the partnering process for projects.

The ribbon cutting represents the fruition of a long, successful working relationship between the City, project contractor Cianbro, and EBA Engineering. EBA designed both phases of the project, and also provided construction management and construction phase services, including inspection and testing.

The City’s project manager, Lisa Grieco, PE, was also involved with both project phases and was instrumental in their success.

The first phase of the project, completed in 2008, shored up the outer portion of the bulkhead, stabilizing Susan Campbell Park. The current phase focused on protecting the inner City Dock. On both the Phase 1 and Phase 2 projects, the entire team (owner, contractor, designer, construction manager, stakeholders, etc.) all went into the project and proceeded throughout with common goals.

Each phase had to be completed within an aggressive 6-month timeframe, between the end of the Fall Boat Show and before the start of the Spring Boat Show. With everyone working together to achieve shared goals, we met this demanding schedule—twice.

Due in large part to successful partnership, the bulkhead replacement project was not only completed on time, but also came in under budget.

A Smart Cantilever Design

On the technical side, one key to project success was using a cantilever design for the new bulkhead instead of a tie-back system connected to a deadman. The cantilever design did not require excavation behind the bulkhead wall to construct tie-backs and a concrete/pile deadman. This minimized the total area disturbed for construction, reducing environmental impacts, impacts to businesses (parking and traffic), costs, and potential historic/archeological impacts through less excavation.

The team also considered the City Dock’s future when deciding to implement a cantilever bulkhead system. Because tie-backs and deadman were not constructed behind the bulkhead, the next generations will face fewer potential obstructions and conflicts for any future bulkhead replacement project. Without these barriers, the next bulkhead replacement could be constructed behind the bulkhead (landside), opening up the already narrow Market Slip channel. (Traditionally, the new bulkhead would be installed outboard, or waterside, of the existing bulkhead, which would further restrict the waterway to mariners.)

To view a video of the grand opening, go to


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