Space Needle getting earthquake upgrades

SEATTLE — Major work is underway to improve the Space Needle's ability to withstand a major earthquake.

The landmark is receiving seismic upgrades.

Sparks may be seen flying from the Space Needle during the nighttime hours when crews will be working.

On nearly every weeknight from midnight until 8 a.m., workers will be installing large steel splices to the redundant core that the Space Needle was originally constructed with.

The $1.6 million project that will last most of the summer is meant to strengthen the core, so the Needle can better withstand earthquakes.

The Needle has withstood shaking before, notably during earthquakes in 1965 and 2001, but when it was constructed in 1962, earthquakes were not understood as well as they are now in the Pacific Northwest.

Officials say the project to retroactively retrofit the Seattle landmark is difficult, but needs to happen.

"I think it would be easier to build it from scratch than what we're doing,” said Karen Olson with the Space Needle.

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The work is happening at the same time as a revival project that could limit some tourist activity and access to the restaurant.

Then on Labor Day, the Needle begins a project called the "Century Project" that will put glass floors in the Sky City Restaurant and glass panels around the observation deck.

The Needle will still be open for tourist activity, but the restaurant may be closed for up to 9 months.

Work is expected to be going on at the landmark for the next several years.