By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
This year’s keynoter was port commmissioner John Creighton, speaking solo before taking questions. He is running for re-election in November after 12 years on the commission.
Sound Transit 3, approved by voters last November, was the topic that started his speech, as he noted that the commission unanimously approved a resolution to support it. “The more people you get out of cars and into transit, the better for freight mobility,” he explained. (But, he joked, his enthusiasm was a bit dampened when he got his car-tab bill last week “and it went up $500.”) He noted that since “part of the alignment goes through port property,” they’ll be “watching it closely.”
He also mentioned the port’s recent $10 million contribution to the Lander Street Bridge project, and what it’s given to other parts of the corridor. “We’re trying to be more comprehensive in our dealings with the city and planning with the city.” He believes the relationship “will help the region going forward.”
Then on to Terminal 5, the still-shuttered-and-awaiting-modernization West Seattle port property next to the park:
Getting the Master Use Permit and construction permit are the next steps, Creighton noted. (Several approvals came through last April, as reported here.) He acknowledged that “naysayers”keep wondering why the activity projected for Terminal 5 doesn’t “just go to Tacoma.” He said T-5 is seen as a key port for the entire West Coast, a “prime asset” for the port and its Tacoma partnership (the Northwest Seaport Alliance). “We are fully intent on moving forward with it,” but still no tenant – they’re talking with “a number of” potential tenants, he said. And they’ll move forward on constructing the Quiet (Rail) Zone as soon as they have a tenant, he promised. (We reported on that $5 million project a month ago.)
Next – Sea-Tac Airport is big for the port, of course, and his mentions included one environmental initiative: They’re trying to get more aviation-biofuels use among the airlines, with the goal of one percent use.
Next issue: Stormwater. “The port has about 78 miles of stormwater infrastructure along the waterfront,” so they have established their own stormwater utility, which means money they had been giving the city is now going into infrastructure improvement. The port is also one of three pilot partners with the Environmental Protection Agency in looking at “how can we be better neighbors to the communities around us?” The port is aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2050, and working to reduce diesel emissions.
And another environmental point that he described as “breaking news”: “We just got approval to start removing about 2,000 creosote pilings from the end of Terminal 5,” in addition to ~11,000 creosote pilings they’ve removed elsewhere.
After that, he went to Q&A.
First question was from the Chamber’s governmental affairs committee chair Pete Spalding, who said that as a Pigeon Point resident, he wanted more specifics on the Quiet Zone plan. Creighton said, “If we hope to grow while being good neighbors, it’s something we need to address.” He offered to get more details to Spalding.
Second question: “What happens to all those pilings once you take them out?” Port staff said from the audience that they “go to an approved hazardous-waste site.”
Another question was about whether the port is settling aside money for a community-health assessment for air pollution, as some other West Coast ports have done. Creighton said that the airport communities have wanted that type of study, and that the port is interested in it and would like to see shore power at more facilities, including Pier 66 (cruise terminal), where he said the city doesn’t have a big-enough substation for it. He said the port does “monitor” emissions.
The next question was about whether every shore-power-capable ship would be able to plug in at Terminal 5. Creighton said he’s in favor of that, and said that the port had been incentivizing visiting ships to burn low-sulfur fuel. “I would like to see a similar incentive program (for) ships that either plug in or continue to burn … better fuels than they do.”
He then was asked for an update on the cruise industry and its future. “That is a huge bright spot for the Port of Seattle – you might get annoyed … by all the crowds of (downtown) tourists during the summer, but every ship … brings $2.7 million into the local economy.” That’s regionally, not just in the port vicinity, he said. This year’s season had ~200 sailings, which meant about half a billion dollars in economic impact. A consultant tells the port it has capacity for even more, Creighton said, noting that expanding could mean “repositioning” for “one of the South Seattle terminals.” He didn’t name the potential terminal. (We were reminded that Terminal 30, on the southeast side of Elliott Bay, was used as a cruise facility for four years last decade.)
Next question, traffic impacts of trucks and trains. “We do care about truck congestion,” Creighton said, while noting they don’t have control over the railroads. He said NW Seaport Alliance staff has been working on terminal capacity and monitoring “so truck dispatchers can look (at cameras)” and decide where to route trucks. “We’re looking at innovative and tech oriented solutions to address those truck queues.” But, he said – as port staff has said previously – the shipping industry “has been in turmoil” because of bankruptcies, alliance-shifting, and more. He said they’re “working on” a better relationship with the railroad commpanies.
What about investing in a wheeled corridor from West Seattle to I-90, and what about the 509 connection? was the two-part final question. Finishing 509 is a “billion-dollar project,” Creighton noted, while calling it “critical” and saying “We’ve been an advocate of completing (it) for years.” But, he says, local cities were supposed to deliver on a commitment to contribute to it but “have amnesia” about that commitment. He also pointed out that the city of Seattle finally passed a Freight Master Plan and entered in a Heavy Haul Agreement which will help support roads with a lot of truck traffic; the port is contributing $20 million to that, and the partnership is exploring whether to dedicate roads such as East Marginal Way as freight routes.
Also at the Chamber lunch:
ELECTION FORUM: Set your calendar – on Thursday, October 19th, the Chamber is sponsoring a forum with City Council and Mayoral candidates. More details to come.
OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS: Chamber CEO Lynn Dennis celebrated the success of last week’s first-ever Westside Job Fair, a partnership with the West Seattle Junction Association that drew more than 120 jobseekers to meet with more than 30 employers, and some were hired on the spot. (WSB was honored to be the media sponsor, and topped the list of ways that participants said they had heard about it.) … West 5‘s Dave Montoure announced that lunch proceeds this month are going to the West Seattle Helpline … Sandy Adams reminded the crowd that ArtsWest is presenting “The Who and The What” – “it’s a fantastic show, come and see it” … Quail Park of West Seattle (WSB sponsor) is having its grand opening November 30th … Lyle Evans from the Senior Center of West Seattle said they’re starting a six-week class series “Beginning Swing and Waltz” in October and November, and the West Seattle Big Band will headline a swing-dance dinner at the center later this month … Lora Swift of the West Seattle Junction Association invited everyone to apply for a free booth at the Harvest Festival, which is set for October 29th … West Seattle Transportation Coalition vice chair Marty Westerman said SDOT will be a guest at the WSTC’s meeting this month, September 28th. … : Pecos Pit (WSB sponsor), which recently celebrated its first anniversary in West Seattle, donated barbecue lunches for today’s event.