FOLLOWUP: Tackling port-truck backups

In April, we published a warning from the Port of Seattle that truck traffic was expected to increase in May, especially at Terminal 18 on Harbor Island, as shipping alliances shifted. And indeed, we’ve been hearing concerns about backups, including onto the westbound bridge from the Harbor Island exit, early in the morning. Just before the holiday weekend, we asked SDOT what’s being done; just after it, spokesperson Sue Romero replied:

SDOT’s Transportation Operations Division is in regular contact with the Port of Seattle and Northwest Seaport Alliance about Terminal 18’s increased truck volume. The Port and Alliance send daily updates on changes made to help alleviate the truck volumes – especially in the early morning and after lunch time, when volumes can be high. Terminal 18 management now opens their gates earlier and are storing some 300-400 trucks on their property before they begin the day, to try and prevent early backups. They have also opened more entrances for truck intake on Harbor Island (Gates 2 and 4) instead of using only their main gate (Gate 1).

Portable signs, supplied by the Port of Seattle and the Alliance, have helped direct trucks to the additional gates, and SDOT is reviewing more permanent signage to help direct trucks to their destination and alleviate congestion. The Commercial Vehicle Enforcement team, as well as Port of Seattle Police and the Seattle Police Department, have worked to help clear choke points. We have also been in contact with the affected businesses on Harbor Island to help understand their own needs as truck traffic increases due to the altered patterns around Terminal 18.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Terminal 18 management opened their facilities on Saturday and then took the unusual step of adding extra hours on Monday, Memorial Day, to help reduce the number of weekday deliveries.

We checked traffic cameras this morning for any signs of backups; none were in view. If you see recurrences, however early, please consider letting us know once you arrive wherever you’re going (unless you’re a passenger and can safely call or text) – 206-293-6302 – as we’d like to keep following up on this.

32 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Tackling port-truck backups"

  • susandennis May 31, 2017 (9:01 am)

    I am so glad to hear this.  I nearly got squished in my little Smart Car by two big rigs one morning last week. I go from Pioneer Square to West Seattle every weekday morning at 5 and it’s been bad. This morning it was much better. There was a backup but it was on the off ramp only.

    I will watch and report in the coming days.

  • Sarge May 31, 2017 (9:40 am)

    You’re not alone Susan. I’ve been forced into the Jersey barrier by container trucks coming onto the West bound lanes of the bridge off 1st Ave S more than once recently. They get backed up all the way from Harbor Island past 1st Ave on the West Seattle bridge leaving no room for cars to merge. The truckers are very aggressive with each other about line position and do not seem to care about the safety of passenger vehicles. They just merge forcing to your car against the wall. I can only hope it doesn’t take a traffic fatality on the bridge for WSDOT to take notice of the dangers posed by aggressive truck drivers. 

    • WSB May 31, 2017 (9:51 am)

      Just to clarify: The bridge and surface streets are all city roadways so this is SDOT – Seattle Department of Transportation – not WSDOT, which is the state Department of Transportation. Confusing, I know, but important to note because for example, one person who e-mailed us had contacted the State Patrol first, thinking they had something to do with all this, but was forwarded to SDOT. – TR

  • ThrillHo May 31, 2017 (9:58 am)

    A few days ago someone posted pics on the West Seattle Bike Connections FB page showing trucks parking in the bike lane and running over bollards to get around each other. It’s out of control.

  • KT May 31, 2017 (10:20 am)

    Why don’t they stage out of the empty Terminal 5?

    • Blinkyjoe May 31, 2017 (11:17 am)

      Staging at T-5 might work, bu they’d have to carefully release trucks at a very measured, intentional pace, otherwise they’d just back up from T-18 over the low bridge. Not clear if there is a proper approach to T-18 from the west side of the Duwamish also. But its a good idea that deserves more investigation!

  • Scott A May 31, 2017 (11:16 am)

    Thanks for the follow-up.

    I’d like to read more about Terminal 46 trucks and why trucks are even near the port if there’s already 50 or a hundred trucks on or near a site?  Trucks should be distributed around the area and only near the terminals as needed.  I’m sure 50 trucks take a little while to load but there shouldn’t be a mile of trucks as I’ve seen recently.

  • Ken May 31, 2017 (1:05 pm)

    Our business currently is waiting for seven containers that have been sitting at Terminal 18 for over a week. Our trucking company has been sending trucks daily to pick up the containers, but they get turned away after sitting for hours in line. I suspect Part of the increase in truck traffic is due to trucks getting turned away and having to return the next day. These delays result not only in wasted time, more trucks on the road, and slowing down businesses, we are also charged by the terminal for every day a container isn’t picked up and by the trucking company for every truck that waits and gets turned away. We are being billed several thousand dollars a day for delays that are out of our control. 

    It’s a massive mess, that is costing many businesses lots of money

  • Former WS Res May 31, 2017 (1:08 pm)

    These trucks bring our food, the items you order on line. There on dead lines from trucking company’s. No they shouldn’t be parked in bike lanes. The trucking company’s should have zones for them to park while they wait. Seattle isn’t a easy spot for them to do so. But also think of the next time you cut a truck driver off because your in a hurry.

  • North of Admiral May 31, 2017 (3:22 pm)

    While these drivers wait in line why don’t we have them watch “How to Drive a Big Rig” refresher videos? It is scary watching them merge onto the WS bridge some days. Way too fast, minimal signal use and you better just get out of their way if you cherish your mirrors (or life).

    Keep on rollin!

  • susandennis June 1, 2017 (6:50 am)

    This morning, the trucks were backed up almost to the top of the ramp when I went across at 4:55 am.  I could not see the queue when I went back at 6:30 but it’s hard to see the ramp going east, especially when you are driving :) 

    • WSB June 1, 2017 (7:06 am)

      Thank you for the update. So it’s an early-early-morning situation in particular, then.

      • Doug June 1, 2017 (8:00 am)

        The backup was huge this morning at about 7am northbound on E Marginal. Trucks were completely stopped in the center turn lane and the motor vehicle lane from the coast guard facility back almost as far as Hanford. Cars, and some semi trucks, were being forced to use the bike lane. There were no police doing enforcement as far as I could tell.

        • WSB June 1, 2017 (8:51 am)

          I checked all the publicly linked traffic cameras around then but couldn’t find anything so we’re just going to have to head out on early reconnaissance tomorrow morning in search of visuals.

          • Scott A June 1, 2017 (11:31 am)

            From what I’ve witnessed on E. Marginal Way at about 6:15am some mornings, SDOT and the Port or terminal operator may as well have a Twitter account like SDOT does for bridges that close to traffic for vessels to pass.  They can tweet: “Marginal Way is closed to vehicles this morning for cargo operations.  Pedestrians and bicyclists can still pass.”

  • susandennis June 2, 2017 (6:47 am)

    zero trucks backed up today. i did not see one even on the exit ramp at 5:55 this morning.

    • WSB June 2, 2017 (7:01 am)

      Thank you for the continuing updates!

    • Tsurly June 2, 2017 (7:22 am)

       Head further E. Marginal to see the s**tshow. I went through there between 0630 and 0700 and stopped for a few minutes to watch and take some video. Cars, motorcycles, cement trucks and tractor trailers all driving in the bike lane creating a dangerous situation.

      • Tsurly June 2, 2017 (7:30 am)

        Video from this morning.


        • WSB June 2, 2017 (7:38 am)

          Thanks – hearing police discuss this via scanner, too. We’re tracking two different sets of traffic, is what’s going on here – sometimes backing up onto the bridge from the Harbor Island exit, in this case the surface backup for what I believe are the non-Harbor Island docks.

        • sam-c June 2, 2017 (9:35 am)

          link doesn’t seem to work

          • WSB June 2, 2017 (9:41 am)

            It worked when Tsurly posted it – I looked at it – but now it says it doesn’t work “because the user has closed their YouTube account.”

          • Tsurly June 2, 2017 (2:58 pm)

             Sorry here is the updated link, which shows two motorcycles driving in the bike lane. I moved further north after this to take video of cars driving in the bike lane, but figured it was time to go when the guy driving the Stoneway Concrete truck got out to yell at me for not moving when he wad trying to drive in the bike lane.



    • Early Morning Commuter June 2, 2017 (10:07 am)

      susandennis there was a short back up this morning at 5:25 am.


  • Early Morning Commuter June 2, 2017 (10:06 am)

    Thanks WSB for your follow up on this story. I am usually east bound across the bridge between 5:40 and 5:30 AM. Last week the westbound back up was totally out of control. I noticed today that the line was shorter. I will continue to observe next week.

    Thanks for all of the good work that you do. 

  • susandennis June 5, 2017 (6:55 am)

    This morning, the truck queue was way down the ramp. There was probably room on the ramp for about 7 additional trucks behind the ones there at 4:55.

  • susandennis June 6, 2017 (7:02 am)

    Trucks are back. On the bridge. The queue this morning (4:55) was one truck away from crowding the on ramp from 1st. Ugh.

  • susandennis June 7, 2017 (6:49 am)

    more trucks today. i’ll report again if/when they are gone

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