Explainer

There Are So Many Construction Cranes in Seattle Right Now

Like flags planted in the name of vertical expansion, the dozens of cranes towering over downtown Seattle are a reminder that the city is in the midst of a development boom. Let’s get acquainted with these spindly tools of progress.

By Cassandra Calderon February 20, 2017 Published in the March 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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Image: Lauren Kelly

By the Numbers

  • 55  Number of tower cranes currently operating in downtown Seattle.
  • 100ish  Tower cranes operating statewide.
  • 180,000 pounds  The max weight that can be lifted by the tower crane working on the Sound Transit tunnels in Northgate, which is also the world’s highest-capacity crane.
  • 65%  Increase in tower cranes operating downtown since July 2015.
  • 700 Feet  The tallest tower crane in downtown Seattle, used to construct the Mark, a 44-floor skyscraper on Fifth Avenue and Columbia Street.

How do they weather storms?

The jib is left to swivel freely at all times in case a storm or a strong wind rolls in, reducing stress on the entire structure.

Do they ever fall?

In November 2006, a tower crane damaged three buildings, injured a crane operator, and killed a 31-year-old resident after it toppled nearly 200 feet into an apartment building in Bellevue. 

How do they get taller?

Tower cranes "grow" through a process called jumping.

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Step 1:
The jib picks up a new mast section, reels it up, and situates it beside the cab. 
Step 2: Hydraulic arms raise the area below the cab, called the collar, 20 feet. 
Step 3: The new section is inserted into the gap and bolted into place. 

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